Private for-profit higher education has grown rapidly in many parts of the world. This growth is attributed to many factors, including a broadening of the student population and the recognition that wider access to higher education will be economically beneficial to individuals, governments and society as a whole. In Australia, the number of students in private for-profit higher education is rising, with dramatic projections for the next 10 years. The Australian government has set a target to increase the participation of students in higher education, with a focus on increasing the access and success of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is unclear, however, what role the burgeoning private for-profit institutions will play in meeting the government's targets, and what incentives will be provided for them to increase the access and participation of students from disadvantaged groups. This paper analyses the key drivers of growth in private for-profit higher education in Australia, and discusses issues around quality and standards. It examines the strengths and limitations of the sector, and the extent to which it contributes to diversity, access and the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It argues that the sector needs clear government directions to improve levels of access, and new government policies to encourage public-private collaborations to help ensure sustainability. The paper also briefly touches on the need for a review into the current structure of Australia's higher education sector as a whole, and whether higher education would benefit from the formation of public community colleges with the explicit aim of widening access for disadvantaged student groups. Further, the paper suggests that encouraging such public-private collaboration may be beneficial to ensure access and participation of students from all walks of life, including disadvantaged groups. © 2013 Copyright HERDSA.