The pressure Year 12 students experience in the lead up to receiving Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores has been well documented, and with the challenges faced in 2020 due to COVID-19, there are concerns anxiety for this year’s 180,000 school leavers could be compounded.
While several universities have made concessions on entry criteria due to the obstacles of 2020, Torrens University and Think Education have abolished ATAR scores as an entry requirement altogether. Instead, students with recent secondary school education will now be considered for admission if they have an Australian secondary school certificate.
The University says there is no significant correlation between a student’s ATAR score and their ability to succeed. It is therefore not considered as a reliable indicator of predictability. It made the decision to abandon the ATAR as an entry criteria after rigorously investigating its student cohorts and the success of students over their studies.
While the downside of ATAR has been highlighted here in Australia, standardised testing has been criticised globally as a flawed method of predicting a student’s future academic potential.
Based on current entrance requirements, Torrens University and Think Education determined:
- The minimum ATAR of 60 or equivalent for entry into a Bachelor level course does not provide sufficient predictability or indication of potential success of students.
- Students who enter at diploma level (with no ATAR requirements) are more likely to remain studying and complete their courses with success.
Torrens University and Think Education have offered alternative pathways to ATAR for certain programs in the past, but has now permanently removed ATAR as an entry requirement. Rather, they’re calling for students with genuine passion for a study program and future career.
“We’ve always believed the ATAR is a reasonable indication of a student’s performance in their final year of school, but the individuality of the student, their strengths and future potential is a better indication of how they might succeed in higher education,” said Torrens University Vice Chancellor, Professor Alwyn Louw.
The University’s chosen indicator of future success, based on its analysis, will be the high school leaving certificate or an equivalent qualification from an approved international provider.
“It is a good indicator of the level of competency and the knowledge level and skills that the students have at that stage,” Professor Louw said.
With around one-third of school leaver applicants now accepted to university through a pathway that does not solely rely on the ATAR, Professor Louw wants to assure the Class of 2020 that there are many options to enter higher education, and not dwell on what ATAR score they receive.
“Our purpose as an institution is to ensure access and openness, and we want to optimise the opportunities for students to enter higher education without the pressure of a snapshot-in-time score, so that ultimately, they succeed. Our focus is on the outcome, rather than an incoming approach.”
In ensuring students’ success, Torrens University and Think Education will:
- set out to understand the profile of students well, in order to best support them at every stage of their studies
- take a strengths-based approach to teaching – focusing on an individual’s strengths as the foundational competencies to support them in their learning
- provide support services that enable students to address specific areas where they may need help
- offer study choices designed to best suit the interests of students – with online and/or face-to-face classes
Students will be offered opportunities to participate in support programs, at no extra cost, when specific support and development needs are identified.
Where special entry requirements are stipulated by a professional body (e.g. nursing or accounting), specific entry criteria (e.g. subjects or minimum grades) in addition to a completed High School Certificate will be stipulated in the entrance requirements for those particular courses. This will allow students to meet professional requirements and register with the professional bodies.
With a report from mental health organisation ReachOut revealing that 25 per cent of students surveyed sought professional help to deal with stress and anxiety of exams, the removal of the ATAR is welcome news for students.
“I decided not to study ATAR subjects at high school because I didn’t want that pressure. It’s been the best decision for my mental wellbeing,” said Bachelor of Business student, Rosanne Arcadi.
“It’s okay to enter university without an ATAR and it’s great for universities to have this option for students like me who struggled in high school,” Rosanne said.
A 2020 graduate and now Torrens University Success Coach, Paul Grainger, will be supporting students throughout their higher education journey, having walked in their path.
“I completed high school and entered Torrens University without an ATAR, so I wasn’t defined by a score and it didn’t impede my program choice or ability to learn and thrive in my studies,” Paul said.
“I’m keen to share my experiences with students who come to study with us, especially those who commence without an ATAR.”
Professor Louw encourages students to pursue a study program that is best suited to their interests. “If you love what you’re studying, you have a greater chance of unlocking your potential and excelling.”