All-rounders not ATARs to impress at ANU
Aug 03, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
The Australian National University has announced a radical move away from ATAR-based admissions to a system which rates applicants on their all-round attributes.
Vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt marked ANU’s 70th anniversary by announcing the university will change the way it admits students, looking beyond the traditional Australian Tertiary Attainment Rank benchmark as the sole means for measuring student attainment.
Instead, the nation’s second-ranked university will take into account a range of factors for admission, including community work.
Professor Schmidt announced the shake-up as part of a grand plan for development which includes a $20 million start-up grant scheme to attract top researchers to the Canberra university, more opportunities for disadvantaged students and greater collaboration with business and government.
“ANU will lead the country in changing the way that universities admit students,” he said.
“Students applying to ANU will be considered on the whole person, not just their ATAR score.
“All students applying to ANU will have co-curriculum and community contributions recognised.
“Our scholarship program will be national and take into account outstanding academic results, non-academic achievement and financial need.
“These changes will be implemented over the next couple of years, and will enable students applying to ANU to apply for scholarships and accommodation, all at the same time.”
Admissions processes nationally have been in the spotlight since Fairfax media revealed in 2015 that students with ATAR scores well below stated minimum requirements were being routinely accepted to courses.
It prompted calls for clarity over admissions policies, with a number of vice-chancellors labelling ATAR an outdated and incomplete measure of student capability.
ANU, which attracts over half of its students from outside the ACT, has been highly critical of the state-based admission centres which process ATAR-based applications, prompting an ACCC investigation into claims the centres unfairly promote their own universities over those interstate.
The Higher Education Standards Panel, which has been tasked by federal education minister Simon Birmingham with clarifying admissions procedures, will release its report shortly.
ANU is ranked behind Melbourne University but ahead of Sydney in the 2015-16 Times Higher Education world rankings, with research-intensive institutions attracting the loftiest positions globally.
Professor Schmidt said ANU’s start-up grants scheme was designed to give new and mid-career researchers “freedom to embark on their big ideas at the height of their creativity, free of the constraints of overly-conservative grant funding”.
He announced the introduction of new entrepreneurship courses aimed at applicants ranging from undergraduates to professionals, to be guided by a Business and Industry Advisory Board chaired by Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer.
The university will also introduce a post-doctoral fellowship program for Indigenous PhD graduates which is designed to develop academic careers and generate research on Indigenous issues.
Professor Schmidt said: “We want to be a university and a community that thinks big and bold, that is audacious in ambition, and a university that stands and is counted amongst the best in the world.”
In July, benefactors Graham and Louise Tuckwell gifted $100 million to a scholarship scheme funding more than 25 places per year for selected ANU undergraduates - worth $21,700 per student annually for up to five years.
As part of the largest single donation to any Australian university, the couple dedicated another $100 million to create two new halls of residence.