By DAVID MYTON
Australia’s universities will be extra busy these next few months as they get down to work on developing new transparent and consistent student admissions requirements due to be put in place and operating from August onwards.
They will be working from a new admissions transparency implementation plan drawn up by a working group chaired by Victoria University Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost Professor Kerri-Lee Krause and which included senior academics and other higher education leaders and sector experts in conjunction with government.
Its key aim is “to drive consistency in the ways higher education providers present information about their admission criteria and processes, guided by agreed principles”.
The plan has its genesis in the Peter Shergold-led Higher Education Standards Panel on undergraduate entry requirements which said current criteria was often “confusing, ambiguous, misunderstood and unevenly distributed”.
The Government accepted the report’s recommendations, with Education Minister Simon Birmingham declaring he didn’t want to see “any more stories in future that suggest universities have been fudging numbers or cooking the books to make their course look more exclusive than they otherwise are”.
Minister Birmingham said the new plan would help to ensure students, parents and schools had better access to consistent and comparable information from universities.
“Some institutions already meet the benchmarks laid out in our plan but this will ensure all prospective students can get the necessary information and support to succeed at their studies and complete their qualification.”
Starting this year and into 2018 it is planned to deliver six agreed objectives, the first four by the sector and the last two by the government:
Consistent presentation of admissions information
Adoption of common admissions terminology
Revised ATAR-related thresholds and definitions
Tertiary admission centres to adopt more consistent approaches and reporting and streamline interstate application processes
TEQSA monitoring and guidance on improved admissions transparency
A new national admissions information platform
According to the timetable by August this year the sector must adopt common terms around the ATAR with universal admission terminology in December.
By the end of 2018 tertiary admissions centres will agree on a “core suite” of standard reports for use by 2019 applicants. In December this year TEQSA will provide draft guidance on admissions transparency and in February next it will monitor and report on institution performance.
The Department of Education and Training will this month begin developing the national admissions platform, with a proof of concept model out in December and full release next August.
Professor Krause said higher education providers were fully committed to improving both the availability and comparability of information on admission requirements and processes.
“The plan also respects the autonomy of institutions to determine their own entry requirements and market themselves in ways tailored to the needs of their prospective students.”
Minister Birmingham said this was a successful example of government working effectively with higher education providers to deliver outcomes that benefit both students and the sector, adding the government was “committed to working with the sector to make implementation a success”.