The education minister wants clarity on university admissions following widespread criticism of the ATAR system
Feb 16, 2016 | News
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has called for greater transparency of admission policies following revelations the nation’s universities routinely accept thousands of students with entry marks well below minimum course requirements.
The Minister has sought advice from the Higher Education Standards Panel on how to improve clarity in student admissions, with a new university standards framework due to take effect from January 2017.
"I want the panel to explore how to ensure incoming students are 'uni-ready'," said Senator Birmingham.
"That means having a clear understanding of what they need to do to get into their course of choice and realising what will be expected of them through their further study."
This year, Sydney’s universities admitted more than 60 per cent of students with an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking) below the requirements set by those institutions.
Around 90 per cent of students admitted to the University of NSW’s prestigious law course achieved below minimum entry standards while some 70 per cent of students at the regional Wollongong University achieved below cut-off in subjects such as business, law and engineering.
The picture is similar in Victoria where in 2015, 60 per cent of students accepted to Deakin University's Geelong campus achieved below the 85.12 cut-off and at Monash University, 40 per cent of students accepted into combined science and law didn’t reach the designated score of 98.
The revelations have prompted calls from some university vice-chancellors for a radical redesign of the admissions system to take into account the growing number of pathways into university taken by today’s undergraduates.
Since the Gillard government lifted the cap on student numbers, universities have created more flexible entry requirements to cater for the growing numbers of national and international students applying for courses.
That relaxing of admissions has led to concerns over reductions in course quality, high student drop-out figures and the impact of underqualified graduates entering the workforce.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has questioned the damage lower entry standards might make to the international reputation of Australia's higher education sector - an export industry worth almost $20 billion this year.
Universities Australia, the peak body representing the nation’s universities, will work with the Higher Education Standards Panel to improve the transparency of student admissions policies.
Chief Executive Belinda Robinson welcomed the minister’s announcement saying: "As a sector, we stand ready to work on improvements that can help to make the admissions requirements and policies clearer for students and parents.
"ATARs need to be supplemented by other entry processes and procedures that recognise the differing circumstances of our young people and that focus on the potential for successfully completing a university education.
"They also need to encourage, rather than impede, the lifelong learning, up-skilling and retraining that is becoming the norm in our modern economy.
"An ATAR tells you something about a student's ability to achieve at school but it doesn't tell you everything."
The Higher Education Standards Panel is made up of former public service chief Peter Shergold, academics Greg Craven and Alan Robson, lawyer Karen Thomas and the newly-appointed medical science researcher Krystal Evans.