Now Reading: An important decision about how we will approach the ATAR

An important decision about how we will approach the ATAR

This is how we will ensure openness and access to all students.

At Torrens University and Think Education, we have always believed in choice and co-design.

Our approach is to work with the individual student, take in their whole picture, in order to design a path through education to the job they want.

We’ve always believed the ATAR is a reasonable indication of the students’ 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.

WHAT WE ARE DOING

Torrens University and Think Education are removing ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) as the key admissions criteria for applicants aiming to study at Torrens.  We will no longer consider ATAR a mechanism to determine the entrance of students.

THE NEW ADMISSION CRITERIA

Future students with recent secondary school education will now be considered for admission if they have an Australian secondary school certificate.

WHY THE CHANGE

This is driven by our purpose as an institution to ensure access and openness. We want to optimise the opportunities for students to enter higher education and ultimately, to succeed.

Our approach has always been to bring people in and build their skills. The focus is on working towards the outcome rather than staying with an input approach. This is why we take a strengths-based approach to teaching – individualising our focus on the strengths someone brings to the table, not the weaknesses.

WHAT THE DECISION IS BASED ON

Our assessment and evaluation

We now have strong evidence to demonstrate that the ATAR as an indicator, does not provide a full picture of an applicant’s ability to succeed.

After rigorously investigating our student cohorts and the success of our students over their studies – based on current entrance requirements, we have found:

  • 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. So, coming in with an ATAR does not predict success at Torrens University and Think Education.
  • Students who enter at diploma level (with no ATAR requirements) are more likely to remain studying and complete their courses with success.

Higher education sector shifting away from ATAR

ATAR as a tool does not align with an open higher education sector based on accesses and openness.

Many Australian Higher Education institutions are already applying alternative approaches to the ATAR entry requirements. We join this movement, as it’s true to our core values.

As our President Linda Brown recently commented “Education has the power to change lives. As the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need to create inclusive, resilient and quality education systems that are fit for the future.”

WE WILL ENSURE OUR STUDENTS SUCCEED BY ESTABLISHING APPROPRIATE STANDARDS OF ENTRY

This is driven by our purpose as an institution to create access opportunities for students to higher education in order to serve society more effectively.

Ultimately our responsibility is also to ensure student success. So, we will never compromise quality.

Standards of entry

While we may ensure equitable opportunities for students to enter our institution, we will make sure we do not compromise the ability of students to succeed once they begin their studies.

Our students will come into the institution meeting the appropriate standards. Our chosen indicator of future success based on our 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 of level and skills that the students have at that stage.

This in itself is an indicator of their preparedness to learn effectively, with a reasonable chance of success.

WE WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD A DYNAMIC AND CONDUCIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

The approach of Torrens University and Think Education is about building a conducive student-centered learning environment:

  • We set out to understand the profile of our students well and to support them at every stage of their studies, as we build their skills.
  • We take a strengths based approach to teaching – individualising our focus on the strengths someone brings to the table, as the foundational competencies to support them in their learning.
  • We provide focussed support services that enable students to address specific areas where they are not sufficiently prepared to participate effectively
  • Our curriculum and approach is designed on choice – all students have the opportunity to learn in different ways – some will want to learn digitally; some will want to come face-to-face in the class. This approach is about individualising education to meet the students learning needs.

The role of student profiling – in identifying challenges

Under the Higher Education Standards Framework (HESF), the admission criteria must be designed to ensure admitted students have a reasonable chance of success.

To ensure all students succeed, all students will be individually assessed as they enter their chosen course to determine any additional learning needs and requirements they may have.

This will enable us to ensure an equitable and fair process and that students are supported to be successful.

When specific challenges are identified, students will be engaged and offered opportunities to participate in support programs – at no extra cost.

Students will be enabled to address their own developmental opportunities to fully participate in learning at Torrens University and Think Education.

COVID

While we have made this decision against the background of COVID, COVID by itself is not the only factor. Our decisions are based on statistics and research which pre-date COVID.

We have been working on building our framework for access to education, improving on what we have already.

We want to provide proper opportunity for students to prepare for quality learning.

So COVID or not COVID, we would have come to the same conclusion because our approach is based on the principal of responsible access within an appropriate support environment.

WHAT HAPPENS IN CASE OF PROFESSIONAL BODY REQUIREMENTS?

There will be courses that will require an element of foundational knowledge, for example accounting or nursing. There will be courses that will require students to meet specific proficiencies to be eligible for admission to the course.

These will be taken into consideration when designing the specific course’s admission criteria.

Where special entry requirements are stipulated by a professional body (e.g. in nursing or accounting profession), 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 the particular courses.

This will allow our students to meet professional requirements, and to be able to register with the professional bodies.

For that reason, in all cases where we have special requirements from such entities – or for any other reasons for special requirements – those special requirements will be attached to those specific qualifications.

ENROLMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR (ENGAGEMENT OF) YEAR 11 STUDENTS

A further enrolment opportunity will be offered to secondary students.

Students who have completed Year 11 will be eligible to have a place reserved for them on condition that Year 12 is subsequently successfully completed and they meet any specific additional requirements as outlined above.

This reflects a trend in Higher Education

We will develop a relationship with the student from year 11.

When we take students during their high school journey so they are already preparing for their Higher Education.

If their results in Year 11 are meeting the requirements, then we will indicate to them that we will reserve a place for them – because they are potential students.

They will still need to meet the entrance requirements – in other words, the school leaving certificate after completion of Year 12.

This will enable us to build a relationship with the students, to provide some support to them to prepare more effectively for higher education.

We start to develop a relationship with them to give them an indication of the opportunity that exists, to give them a sense of security if they continue to perform at that level, successfully – and that they can prove at the end of their schooling year that they have successfully completed their year twelve.

Through that, we want to make sure that we have more students that are able and ready to move into higher education, and through that, give further expression to our purpose.

That they know they already have a seat in their institution. That they are assured of their entrance. Plus, that they have the opportunity that year to share in some of the initiatives that we are making available, to support them in preparation.

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