First round offers for both university campuses in Ballarat rose sharply through the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) this year, according to just released figures.
Anecdotal evidence suggests strongly vocational courses have been boosted in popularity as students seek to shore up their employment prospects in the wake of Australia's first recession since the 1990s.
There were 1,055 round one offers made overall to domestic students at Federation University, a spokesperson confirmed - 12.7 per cent more than last year.
Of those, there were 496 made for the Ballarat campus, alongside 431 offers at the Berwick campus and 267 at Gippsland campus.
In addition, 116 Federation TAFE offers were made, with nursing the most popular.
Applications to courses run at the Ballarat campus of Australian Catholic University (ACU) followed a similar trajectory, with more than 3,000 reported for this academic year.
A spokesperson reported an "overwhelming" number of applications for the most popular courses. Overall the application numbers for the Ballarat campus increased by around 20 per cent, with most prospective students being drawn from the surrounding regional area. A small percentage applied to the Ballarat campus from the greater Melbourne area.
A total of 508 first-round offers were made for the ACU Ballarat Campus, with nursing, physiotherapy, and the double degree of nursing/ paramedicine the most highly sought after subjects.
A statement attributed to ACU chief operating officer Dr Stephen Weller also said there had been a "pleasing uptake" in the Bachelor of Educational Studies, which permits students with an ATAR of below 70 to go into teaching.
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A Federation University statement gave nursing, exercise and sport science, performing arts and visual arts, physiotherapy and education as "among the most popular programs".
A spokesperson said offers through VTAC accounted for approximately one third of domestic enrolments, with most made directly.
First preferences for Federation University also rose by 11.8 per cent.
Professor Andy Smith, the deputy vice chancellor at Federation University, said the rise in applications was "a really good result" for the Ballarat campus.
"I think it is to do with the fact the degrees we offer are very related to jobs and the labour market," he said.
"One of the things the university prides itself on is our rankings on the employment and employability of our graduates.
Professor Smith also believes the COVID-19 pandemic may have increased the focus on employability at the end of studying.
"What potential graduates are looking for now is a degree that gets them a job - and that feeling I think has been exacerbated by the current recession."
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