Review of university admissions begins with grand plans for reform
Apr 8 , 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
An overhaul of Australia’s chaotic university admissions system could see all courses required to show entrants’ minimum, median and top marks.
Professor Peter Shergold, chair of the Higher Education Standards Panel, says the plan is being considered in a bid to improve clarity over admissions.
It follows revelations by Fairfax Media last year that Australian universities routinely admit students with marks significantly below course minimum entry standards.
Almost all Australian universities were shown to be accepting undergraduates with sub-standard ATAR marks, prompting education minister Simon Birmingham to task the Panel with clarifying entry requirements.
It will canvass opinions nationally and is inviting submissions up until 27th May.
Minister Birmingham said transparent and comparable admission practices would “make universities accountable for the standards they are setting”.
He said: “Some students are confused about university entry requirements, such as the ATAR and how that plays out with other adjustments for ‘bonus points’ and weightings for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Other feedback we often hear from students who change courses or leave altogether is that they picked the wrong course, or didn’t realise there were other ways to get into the course of their choice, or that they started a course with little understanding of its requirements.
“What I want is to understand how we best achieve the transparency students need and want - is it through an online platform, greater accountability for institutions or better education around high school scores and the ATAR?”
The revelations of low course entry standards have prompted calls for the reintroduction of caps on course numbers to ensure graduate quality, most prominently from NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli who has described students as “cash cows” for universities.
But some Vice-chancellors, including Panel member Greg Craven, have vigorously defended the opening up of universities to higher numbers of Australians than ever before, with detractors labelled elitist.
The consultation paper released this week says: “ATAR was devised as a rationing device to allocate places in courses with limited numbers of places.
“With the lifting of caps on places in most courses, this rationing imperative no longer applies in the same way.
“However, two things remain important.
“First, the process of student admissions to higher education needs to be transparent.
“Second, the students accepted need to have the capacity and be provided with the support to ensure that they can benefit from their education and complete their studies.”
The Panel’s stated aims are to establish clearly articulated entry requirements, consistent and comparable information on entry pathways, clarity around how ATARs are used and accountability for course content claims made by institutions.
Professor Shergold said he welcomed feedback from families, schools, career advisers and higher education institutions.
“Incoming university students have already had to work hard to get to where they are and the least universities can do is to offer simple, clear and comparable admissions policies,” he said.
“Students and their families need to be able to make fully-informed decisions about what is best for them - what is required to get into higher education and what support is provided to help them succeed.”
For more information visit https://www.education.gov.au/higher-education-standards-panel-hesp-0
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