Subject-Based Entry expands to all SA schools

Students studying around a table

Subject-Based Entry expands to all SA schools

Students at all South Australian secondary schools will now have an extra opportunity to study at the University of Adelaide, thanks to Subject-Based Entry into a range of degrees.

The new scheme will be available to Year 12 students across the state, and across many key degree programs, including arts, commerce, science, health science and engineering.

The scheme – announced at the 2019 Principals’ and Senior School Leaders’ Forum, held yesterday at the University of Adelaide – is aimed at providing an alternative measure of student success at university to the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank).

“Our new Subject-Based Entry scheme is an exciting step forward in helping to determine what will give South Australia’s young people the best opportunities to succeed in university education,” says Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen.

“By offering an additional pathway, the University of Adelaide has made some fundamental changes to the way in which students can now think about preparing for success in their chosen fields, by studying the right subjects at school.

“A more highly educated workforce will be necessary for the future prosperity of the State, which is why the University of Adelaide has a clear strategic direction to provide a quality education to a growing number of students,” Professor Rathjen says.

The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Pascale Quester, says: “Subject-Based Entry will assess the aptitude of each student for the degree they’ve chosen, whether they are arts-based, STEM-based, or a combination of the two.

“We hope this will encourage students in Years 10 and above to consider what subjects they should be studying in order to achieve success in the fields that interest them most,” Professor Quester says.

The expanded state-wide scheme follows a successful pilot of Subject-Based Entry involving students from four South Australian schools who gained entry into engineering-related degrees this year.

“Our new Subject-Based Entry scheme is an exciting step forward in helping to determine what will give South Australia’s young people the best opportunities to succeed in university education.” Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen

Subject-Based Entry means that Year 12 students who achieve an acceptable standard in particular subjects at school will be given entry into specific University of Adelaide degrees that are matched with those subjects.

For example, students who achieve an acceptable standard in Year 12 science and mathematics subjects will be eligible for admission into a number of degrees that focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Students who achieve an acceptable standard in English-related, humanities or social sciences subjects in Year 12 will be eligible for admission into Arts-related degrees. Other combinations of subjects will affect entry into degrees such as Commerce or Psychological Science.

Subject-Based Entry will not replace the ATAR, which will continue to be used for entry into many degrees. However, secondary students will now be considered on the basis of Subject-Based Entry and their Year 12 score for study in one of more than eight types of degrees at the University of Adelaide. All applications for study will continue to be lodged via SATAC (South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre).

Pilot project

The University of Adelaide’s Subject-Based Entry scheme follows a pilot project conducted over the past year by the University in partnership with four schools and with the assistance of SATAC.

The four secondary schools involved in the pilot project were: Adelaide High School, St Peter's College, Trinity College, and University Senior College.

This pilot saw Year 12 students who achieved an acceptable standard in their specialist maths and physics studies offered a place in engineering, computer and mathematical sciences degrees at the University of Adelaide.

In total, 40 eligible students from those schools accepted entry to the University this year.

“We’re pleased to say that each of these students has been doing well in their first year,” Professor Quester says.

“While this is still a small sample of students, the University feels that the success of the pilot warranted expanding Subject-Based Entry to all secondary schools in the State.

“We will continue to assess the scheme and our students’ success to ensure that Subject-Based Entry is meeting our needs, the needs of the students, and the future skills needs of the State,” she says.

A full list of University of Adelaide degree programs for 2020 available for Subject-Based Entry, and their criteria, can be found here:


Comments from Tim Browning, Headmaster, St Peter’s College:

St Peter’s College partnered with the University of Adelaide on this important trial because we strongly believe that education should inspire students and encourage depth of study and passion rather than the single pursuit of an ATAR. The focus for many families across Australia is the highest possible rank in Year 12, achieved by subject pathways designed to maximise this outcome, often at the expense of passion and depth. We believe our students are more than their ATAR and we want to foster their curiosity and encourage them to pursue studies in their areas of interest and passion. We want our students to have greater choice and flexibility in their studies and have increased electives and are changing our teaching methods to support this new approach. We are delighted that the University of Adelaide is expanding the trial to all students in South Australia and we hope this change inspires other universities to look beyond the current ranking system.

Comments from Anita Zocchi, Principal, University Senior College:

I welcome this initiative from the University of Adelaide, and I believe students, teachers, other principals and parents will also welcome it. This is an opportunity for students to work on their strengths and passions, and adds authenticity to the concepts behind the Personal Learning Plan (a compulsory unit of the SACE). It will allow students to focus their attention across a range of disciplines and work with the areas they are best at, but more importantly assist them to choose their pathways wisely.

I like the fact that the University has shown that a combination of disciplines is important to a balanced learning program. All of the degrees mentioned in this announcement allow for other subjects to be taken in which a student may have a particular interest or gift such as a language other than English and Music, which we know contribute to the development of abstract and critical thinking and further develop people as rounded global citizens. Most importantly though, I hope it will lessen the ‘gaming’ of the ATAR, and will pave the way for more resilient young people who will be rewarded for their perseverance and stay the course with subjects that may challenge them.

I’m pleased to see the University of Adelaide is working to make our state a stronger and more vibrant one, by encouraging young people to work to their best of their abilities throughout their schooling and then to be offered a tertiary pathway in South Australia, keeping our young people here. Hopefully this initiative will then see rewards for the state across industry and career pathways.

Tagged in skills, future skills, subject-based, atar, year 12