Thursday 23 January 2014
Following news that students had been admitted to some Victorian universities with ATARs as low as 33, the relationship of ATARs to quality is again a hot topic in the sector, with renewed calls for universities to publish "realistic" ATARs for entry into courses. Group of Eight chair and Australian National University VC Ian Young has highlighted the role of the ATAR as a predictor of university achievement, while acknowledging that it is "not a measure of intelligence or diligence"; however, a number of other Vice-Chancellors, including Australian Catholic University VC Greg Craven, have pointed to the many studies showing that ATAR is correlated more with socio-economic status than ability. In the Australian, editor Julie Hare criticises the "equity lobby's kneejerk position" that ATARs are not a valid predictor of success at university, suggesting that there is a lack of evidence to support this claim and that the system should be put under scrutiny. The Australian Financial Review investigates both sides of the quality debate, noting the role of preparatory programs in supporting low-ATAR students but querying whether the demand-driven system has encouraged students to go to university who would be more suited to TAFE. Relatedly, TAFE has proposed that the demand-driven system should exclude students whose ATARs fall below a minimum threshold, with savings to be redirected to additional places in alternative pathway programs.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/how-to-deliver-on-the-promise/story-e6frgcjx-1226807020450 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/atar-furore-raises-its-ugly-head-again/story-e6frgcjx-1226807019665 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/falling_uni_scores_hurt_the_trades_onRureVyRUMq9n2kBKwBGL [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/tafe-targets-new-market/story-e6frgcjx-1226807018267 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/generations-push-to-understand-y/story-e6frgcjx-1226806249842 [paywall]
Entry standards to teacher training courses continue to come under scrutiny, with The Australian reporting that University of Sydney VC Michael Spence has labelled the NSW government's move to set a minimum ATAR for entry into teacher education courses as "cheap" and "politically expedient". Spence notes that, as with many professional degrees, not all students completing teaching degrees will enter the profession of teaching; regardless, graduate outcomes for teaching graduates in the general workforce remain strong, with 93.1% in full-time employment after graduation. However, this view is contended by others in the sector, who point to a move towards more specialist practical training for teachers through postgraduate teaching programs, such as the prestigious Master of Teaching program offered through the University of Melbourne.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/atar-move-a-cheap-shot/story-e6frgcjx-1226807974799 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/in-general-teachers-must-be-taught-to-teach/story-e6frgcjx-1226807207359 [paywall]
Fee deregulation and across-the-board increases to student fees are among the issues under consideration by the review of the demand-driven system of student funding, with the range of submissions from universities highlighting the lack of a unified approach within the sector. While institutions within the elite Group of Eight are keen to privatise some degrees in exchange for forgoing government subsidies, the Innovative Research Universities group has suggested retaining the demand-driven system but increasing fees to the maximum currently allowable for all degrees. A further submission by the Australian Veterinary Association has called for caps to be instituted on veterinary science places in the context of an "oversupply" of graduates and a decline in the numbers of companion and agricultural animals.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/surfeit-of-vets-prompts-call-to-cap-places/story-e6frgcjx-1226807060998 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/student-fee-hikes-in-review-spotlight/story-e6frgcjx-1226807067697 [paywall]
In its submission to the government's Commission of Audit, the Australian Academy of Science has called for the Abbott Government to reverse $451 million in cuts to science funding, highlighting the need for a strategic approach to investment in the face of international competition. The submission notes that Australia should be toward the top of the OECD in science investment per GDP rather than its current position near the bottom, and that Australia risked losing its title as "the clever country". The Commission has come under fire as being too pro-business, with critics suggesting that the audit may be a "Trojan horse" for the Business Council of Australia to implement its "wish list".