Quality is an issue: Carr

The Australian     |       10 July 2013

Kim CarrMinister for higher education Kim Carr has reiterated his view that the quality of some degrees is under threat because of the vast increase in enrolments of academically under-prepared students.

He said he had been advised that as many as half of all school-leavers entering university with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank below 50 are dropping out (see ATAR linked to drop out rate).  And that is justification enough for him to put minimum entry requirements on the radar.

We have to make sure that people who go into a higher education program come out with a degree that is among the best in the world.  Australian university qualifications need to be held up in high esteem. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of excellence. I have a longstanding commitment to equity, but equity should not be seen as an abstraction from quality.

Emotions have been running high since Senator Carr’s comments first emerged last week, with many university chiefs jumping to the defence of their enrolment patterns and educational practices.

Key to their argument is that outcomes are more important than ATAR.

As the Innovative Research Universities group summed it up :

The argument of a risk to quality has no credibility. It focuses on entry capability, not what people gain through their degree and their level of knowledge and skill at graduation.

ATAR graph

The Australian

But Carr said high attrition rates are not acceptable. He had been advised that one in every two enrolments among some cohorts with ATARs under 50 and one in three with ATARs under 60 dropped out.

Those figures suggest we have the right to ask whether the education they are getting is appropriate.  We are not doing anyone any favours by not taking the quality of their education seriously.  It’s not just about pushing them in the door. Everyone says it’s about outputs, but that has to take into account attrition rates and employability.

Carr said he would like to see the compact process used to negotiate enrolment patterns to allow “a discussion between the commonwealth and individual institutions about meeting their special needs.”

He said the emphasis for low-achieving school-leavers should be on sub-degree programs, using “the full range of educational opportunities available, including a highly valued TAFE system”.

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Demand driven system on the block
Unis may need to rein in growth
The thing about fees….
Davis suggests demand-driven system might be recalibrated
Research cut stirs university divisions
ATARs & the quality issue

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