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Nielsen data shows surge in Australian tertiary education ad spend and prospective student numbers

3 minute read | September 2023
  • Ad spend in higher education sector up 25% YOY
  • Social media dominates ad spend in race to reach new students
  • Growing number of professionals and parents keen to further their studies

Sydney – September 12, 2023 Nielsen has released its most recent Consumer and Media View (CMV) and Ad Intel data on the tertiary education sector in Australia, revealing a significant increase in the number of people looking to pursue higher education.

According to Nielsen CMV, the percentage of Australians (aged 16 and above) expressing an intention to study at TAFE or University in the next 12 months has risen dramatically. In 2019 the number was just 7%, but as of 2023, that figure has more than doubled, jumping to 15%.

The largest group intending to undertake tertiary study within the upcoming year are high school graduates aged 16 to 17, however older generations are also looking to hit the books.

Age breakdown of those intending to undertake tertiary study in the next 12 months:

16-17: 55%
18-24: 14%
25-39: 41%
40-54: 25%
55+: 10%

The data also reveals that 76% of those wanting to pursue tertiary education over the course of the following year are currently employed, with 44% working full time, 32% working part-time, and 19% working casually, indicating a desire to upskill and improve their qualifications.

Nielsen Ad Intel data also shows that Australian tertiary education providers are spending big to attract new students, with a combined ad spend topping $210 million across the July 2022 – June 2023 financial year period. There’s also been an increase of 25% compared to the previous financial year.

Social media accounted for $126.4 million of the total ad spend (almost 60%), with Facebook topping the list of targeting platforms. General display and metro TV ads were also heavily used in the ad mix, but were still dwarfed by social. 

The ad spend breakdown reflects the push to attract high school students as they consider their TAFE or university options.

In addition, 55% of those intending to study are parents, or have children at home. Among this group, 21% have at least one child under 5 years old, 28% have at least one child between 5-12 years old, and 27% have at least one child between 13-17 years old. This highlights the need for tertiary education providers to offer educational opportunities and career advancement for people with family commitments.

Secondary students looking to pursue tertiary education in the next 12 months are 82% more likely than the average population to respond to online ads, almost 2.5 times more likely to click on video ads, and almost 2.5 times as likely to click on banner ads. Additionally, 31% find online and mobile ads useful, if tailored to their interests, which is 48% higher than the average population.

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Media Contact

Dan Chapman
Assoc. Director, Communications, Nielsen APAC
+61 404 088 462


*Nielsen CMV, July 2020-June 2019, July 2022-June 2023, base: All People 16+ and Nielsen Ad Intel