Reform needed on uni entrance scores

Monday, 25 February 2013

The University of Adelaide's Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Warren Bebbington, has called for an overhaul of the way bonus points are included in tertiary entrance scores, and the way those scores are made public in South Australia.

Professor Bebbington, who this year becomes board chair of the South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC), says students and their parents would be better served by greater transparency on university entry scores and admission criteria.

He says the use of bonus points in South Australia, which are added to a student's ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) to gain entry to university, is "out of control".

"In other States, bonus points are set centrally by the admissions centre and uniformly applied to all institutions. In South Australia, a student might get different bonus points from each university for exactly the same achievement," Professor Bebbington says.

"The aim of bonus points is usually to make adjustments that assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds compete on a level playing field, or else to encourage students to enrol in neglected but important subjects. In South Australia, they are being used so widely and freely it is difficult to see what objective is achieved."

He says South Australia has also been operating differently from other Australian States by not providing complete transparency on the cut-off scores and other factors being used for university entry.

In all other States, tertiary admission centres are required to publish a range of data for every academic program: the "clearly-in" ATAR, the percentage admitted below that score, even the mean ATAR. But in South Australia, SATAC is prevented from publishing such details.

"This results in a lack of transparency about the real scores required to get into a program, and it means that parents and students are not well informed," Professor Bebbington says.

"It's not helpful to someone who wants to apply for a course to see a published cut-off score that's 40 points higher than it really is - they would change their preference to something else, and potentially miss out on their program of choice because they didn't have the right information.

"It's now up to us - the university sector in South Australia and SATAC, with government support - to make sure the system works better for the benefit of students and their families," he says.


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