MORE women than men are enrolling at university, but female graduates are paid less when they enter the workforce, new research shows.

The wage difference is particularly clear at higher levels of qualification, something not seen in many other developed nations.

The Australian Centre for Educational Research briefing found that the salary of higher education graduates was more than 50 per cent higher than of workers without a degree.

Between 1998 and 2009, Australia was one of a number of countries where women made up more than 50 per cent of new university students.

However, women with tertiary qualifications in Australia earned about 72 per cent of what men with the same qualifications earned, the paper found.

The gap is bigger than in Germany, New Zealand and UK.

The salary difference between men and women with tertiary qualifications is larger than the gap between men and women without one.

Dr Daniel Edwards, ACER senior research fellow and co-author of the paper, said the data was concerning.

“While Australia is not alone on this point, the fact that the discrepancy in earnings between men and women is larger among the more highly qualified cohort is of concern and is not replicated in a number of other countries,” he said.

The research found that Australia had a large number of university-qualified people, a level reached relatively recently compared with other nations, which have experienced high attainment levels for generations.

It also showed that Australians accessed higher education across a broader range of ages than in many other countries. Despite this, total expenditure on tertiary education as a proportion of GDP has been declining since the mid-1990s – and is low compared with many other countries.

The research comes as about 400,000 students from 40 universities are surveyed on the core aspects of their university experience – perhaps the largest university research ever conducted. The University Experience Survey will help universities and the government learn more about students’ experiences at university and how they can improve teaching and learning.