Australian physiotherapy student intake is increasing and attrition remains lower than the university average: a demographic study Academic Article uri icon


  • QUESTIONS: Have student numbers (ie, intake and attrition) changed since the introduction of graduate entry-level physiotherapy courses in Australian universities? What is the impact of any changes in student numbers on university funding? What is the impact of any changes in student numbers on the workforce? Have student characteristics (ie, gender, country of origin, background) changed? DESIGN: Demographic study of 2003 graduates, 2004 student intake, and estimated 2007 student intake. PARTICIPANTS: Eleven Schools of Physiotherapy in Australia. RESULTS: In 2003, 836 new physiotherapists graduated, and in 2004, 1108 students commenced with the percentage of graduate-entry Masters and international students increasing. Compared to the overall average 25% attrition rate of students from university, the rate for physiotherapy students was less than 5%; the funding formula thus underestimates physiotherapy student numbers across the years of the courses. While it remains the case that in undergraduate and graduate-entry programs most physiotherapy students are female, a greater proportion of males are entering graduate-entry Masters programs than undergraduate courses. International student numbers are increasing in line with trends across the sector, but representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in physiotherapy courses was lower than within universities generally. CONCLUSIONS: The marked overall increase in student numbers and greater retention rate in the graduate entry-level courses puts physiotherapy at a disadvantage in relation to Department of Education, Science and Training student funding. While the substantial increase in new physiotherapists may serve to ease workforce demands in the short term, significant pressure on physiotherapy academics and clinical educators was evident.

publication date

  • 2008