The CDU Context

Student profile

Understanding our student population provides an insight into their potential learning needs and is crucial to curriculum design, planning and evaluation.

Our 23,000 students are drawn from the Northern Territory, across Australia and overseas, and cover a broad range of cultures and ages, from Indigenous to international students, and range from school leavers to mature age people returning to study. This means our students bring with them diverse knowledge, skills, capabilities, experiences and perspectives which we need to capitalise on to create a learning environment in which people from all backgrounds can learn from one another.

The following is a summary of our student profile as at the end of 2013, together with some comments about the impact this has on our approaches to teaching and learning.


Two thirds of CDU's Higher Education students are female. This is especially evident in Teaching, Nursing, Law, Psychology, Pharmacy and Applied Science. In a few courses, such as Commerce, Environmental Science and Exercise and Sport Science, at CDU there are roughly equal numbers of female and male students. In some of the more traditionally male dominated courses like Engineering and IT, CDU still attracts a much higher proportion of male students compared to females.

The VET student cohort includes a much higher proportion of male students, with more than half of all VET students being male.

2013 sum of headcount by gender

Gender HE % VET %
Female 7403 68% 5079 43%
Male 3517 32% 6720 57%
Total 10920 100% 11799 100%

Source: CDU Annual Report 2013


In Higher Education, 25% of our students are aged under 25 and 75% are aged 25 or older. This is very different to the traditional profile of university students in which school leavers dominate. It is important to recognise that a higher proportion of our Higher Education students are adult learners who are more likely to face conflicting demands in balancing family, work and study commitments.

In VET, the picture is somewhat different with 21% of our students aged under 20 and 38% aged under 25. This is partly due to our delivery of VET in Schools (VETiS) programs to secondary students and our delivery of Australian Apprenticeships which are commonly undertaken by younger students.

In both Higher Education and VET, older students bring with them more extensive life experience based on adult-to-adult relationships in both the workplace and family unit. Whilst this can enhance their learning experience at CDU, it also means they expect to interact with University teaching and administrative staff as adults and peers. Younger students, on the other hand, tend to have more limited life experiences based on parent-child or teacher-student relationships. They are likely to be less independent and need more direction and support in becoming independent learners.

2013 sum of headcount by age

Age HE % VET %
Under 20 596 5% 2515 21%
20 - 24 2178 20% 1981 17%
25 - 29 2228 20% 1598 14%
30 - 34 1677 15% 1354 11%
35 - 39 1308 12% 1114 9%
40 - 44 1187 11% 981 8%
45 - 49 731 7% 795 7%
50+ 1015 9% 1461 12%
Total 10920 100% 11799 100%


Mode of study

Most of CDU's Higher Education students are studying either off-campus, often online through 'e-learning', or through a mixture of off-campus and on-campus studies. This means they must know how to study independently, use CDU’s online learning environment 'Learnline' effectively, form online peer support groups and interact effectively with teaching staff online. It also means our academic staff must be as adept at teaching online as they are at teaching face-to-face.

An increasing number of CDU's VET students are receiving some of their training in workplaces or remote communities away from CDU's main campuses and centres. Only a very small proportion study online, although this is growing.

2013 HE sum of headcount by study attendance mode*

Attendance mode Sum of Headcount %
External only for all courses 7006 64%
Internal only for all courses 2102 19%
Mixed mode within a course 1751 16%
Mixed mode between courses 61 1%
Total 10920 100%

* Derived for each course in which student enrolled in the academic year, based on unit attendance mode within course(s).

Mode of enrolment

More than 50% of our Higher Education students and almost 90% of VET students are studying part-time. Inevitably, this means students will be on campus less and will require more flexibility in how their courses are delivered.

2013 sum of headcount by enrolment mode

Enrolment HE % VET %
Full-time 5059 46% 1150 10%
Part-time 5861 54% 10451 89%
N/A     198 2%
Total 10920 100% 11799 100%


ATSI (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander) profile

Indigenous Australians make up almost 30% of the Northern Territory's population. In Higher Education, only 6.4% of CDU's students are Indigenous. In VET, approximately one quarter of our students are Indigenous, although they are predominantly enrolled in lower level courses.

We need to continue to work with Indigenous Australians to better understand their needs so we can facilitate their participation in higher level VET and higher education courses.

2013 sum of headcount by ATSI profile

ATSI profile HE % VET %
Non ATSI 10222 94% 8517 72%
ATSI 698 6% 3282 28%
Total 10920 100% 11799 100%


NESB (Non-English Speaking Background) profile

For about 15% of CDU's Higher Education students and about 30% of CDU's VET students, English is their second language. The higher proportion of VET students is partly due to CDU being responsible for delivery of the Commonwealth Government funded Adult Migrant English Program in the Northern Territory, and partly also due to the higher number of Indigenous students we teach who often speak one or more Indigenous languages as their first (and sometimes second and third) language.

This profile highlights the cultural diversity of our students and has implications for how we design our courses and teaching materials.

2013 sum of headcount by NESB profile

NESB profile HE % VET %
NESB 1899 17% 3634 31%
Non NESB 9021 83% 8165 69%
Total 10920 100 11799 100%

 Read the CDU Annual Report for further detailed statistics and information.