As Year 12 complete their Trial examinations this week, the ‘new norm’ of university entry is picking up pace. While the ATAR is still the main method of selection used by most universities, many institutions are now offering early entry schemes for school leavers and many students are taking advantage of these opportunities. A quick look at the UAC site will open parents’ eyes to what is being currently offered at most institutions. https://www.uac.edu.au/current-applicants/undergraduate-applications-and-offers/early-offer-schemes-for-year-12-students.
While on the surface this broadening of pathways into university is opening new doors, the devaluing of the ATAR and the one criteria model is concerning many. The extensive nature of non-ATAR-based entry and the lack of transparency in relation to this method of entry are two of the greatest criticisms. In 2021, one third of Year 12 students who entered university did not use their ATAR. Schools are reporting that students switch off before the HSC as they already have a university place assured, and this is playing out in a range of negative ways as students complete their final year. Looking at how hard many of our students are currently working – there is value, surely, in completing a process and seeing it through to the end. The HSC and ATAR are rights of passage and while they do not sum up the whole child, the ATAR does indicate the completion of high school and is a credential that opens doors.
Early entry has crept up on us all. As universities compete and strive to attract students to their university and courses, they have found ways to do this through early entry. This has happened without any real debate as to whether it is good or not for our education system and the students within it. It is this fundamental disconnect that has led to a degree of discomfort.
Despite our discomfort, we will be encouraging students in Year 12 to take advantage of these schemes over the coming months – we would be doing them a disservice if we didn’t. At the same time, we will also be encouraging our students to finish Year 12 well and gain the best ATAR possible. After six years of high school, completion of this process is a strong indicator of a student’s ability to manage the complexity of their final year with courage, focus and hard work. All of these are good indicators for future success at university and/or in the workplace.