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University ATAR scores challenged over relevance

Should the Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks be one of the main factors to measure student entry into university?

 

ATAR is a national ranking of students who complete Year 12.

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There are concerns the scores don’t reflect a student’s potential or accurately predict a student’s success.

 

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Dawkins, says ATARs should not be used in isolation.

 

“The thing about ATARs is that they provide a piece of information, but only one piece of information. The important questions for universities is to determine how well a student is going to do in a course and whether or not they should be accepted into that course. Our analysis shows that some students with very high ATAR scores actually don’t do very well and some students with very low ATAR scores actually do sensationally well.”

 

Professor Dawkins says other factors, such as students’ socio-economic background, their previous experience and motivation, should also be considered.

 

Suzanne Connelly, from the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre, agrees.

 

“It is simply a guide and students should always list the courses they really want to get into – being a little bit realistic – but list their dream courses at number one and work from there.”

 

That’s the process used by 23 year old Rachel who graduated from year 12 with a low ATAR.

 

She was able to pursue her dream of studying civil engineering.

 

“I knew I had to do really well in maths methods, specialist maths and then a good study score in English, and I think physics was highly regarded as well.”

 

Victoria University Professor Peter Dawkins says more support should be provided to help students direct their studies towards the right career.

 

“It’s very important that students and universities and the schools the students come from have a very good dialogue about what are good pathways for them – what are the right courses given their background, where are they going to end up. It’s that kind of dialogue and rich understanding that we need to get into our student population rather than giving undue emphasis to this thing called the ATAR score.”