The Australian | 18 January 2014
School leavers with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank as low as 33 have been made offers to study for a science degree at one Victorian university.
But a leading vice-chancellor called for the common practice of universities publishing inflated and “fraudulent” ATAR scores in an effort to make their courses appear more popular to be banned under the Trade Practices Act.
Information on university offers released by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre reveals entire campuses where barely any students with an ATAR above 50 were sent an offer.
The new Federation University of Australia, which resulted from the merger of Ballarat University and Monash’s Gippsland campus, has only one course with a cut-off above 50.
Of the 12 courses listed with published ATARs, 11 required an ATAR of 47.3 (to study IT) or below. A rank of just 33.35 was required for a science degree.
Andy Smith, acting vice-chancellor of FUA, said the university is not concerned about a lack of academic rigour of courses with so many low-ATAR students.
It’s not about academic standards but academic achievement and our focus on what students exit with (not) what they enter it with. We have a lot of support programs that we wrap around (low-ATAR) students. We are pretty confident they are students who can actually achieve. It comes down to the quality of teaching.”
Victoria is the only one of the five state tertiary admissions centres that publishes realistic university cut-offs alongside the proportion of offers that went to students with marks below that.
Greg Craven, the head of Australian Catholic University and formerly a renowned constitutional lawyer, says that universities in other states engaged in deceptive and unethical practices by telling students cut-off scores were much higher than the reality.
There are entire courses at some universities that don’t have a single student who scored above their advertised cut-off. They are nothing more than advertising billboards. What we really have to do is put some trade practices rigour into this system. It should be a matter of public disclosure.
He said he would favour a system where universities had to publish their median ATAR.