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CEO | Principal's Report

Haileybury students perform exceptionally well in the VCE and, through that, achieve outstanding Australian Tertiary Admissions Results (ATAR) that open up a great breadth of post-school study opportunities.

Last week the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) released research highlighting the rising relevance of the ATAR for university admissions and its importance in predicting success at university.

The ATAR is fair, open and transparent and, as was noted in the CIS research, is still used by three in four school leavers to gain university entrance.

The CIS paper also demonstrated that the higher the ATAR, the more likely the completion of university degrees. It reported that ATAR is ‘clearly predictive of completion rates and attrition rates for school leavers’. For example, students who score an ATAR between 95 to 99.95 have an 87% six-year completion rate for their degrees, and those whose ATAR is 30 to 49 have a 46% completion rate.

In recent years, non ATAR admissions to university have gained some traction. Of students who enter on this basis, only 59% have completed their degree in six years and 27% have dropped out completely.

The CIS paper also notes that non-ATAR admissions are ‘more than twice as likely as ATAR-based admissions to drop out of university in their first year’. The author of the CIS paper, Rob Joseph, also states: “Despite rhetoric around non-ATAR pathways being ‘fairer’ or more ‘equitable’, in practice, universities appear to be using this method as an opaque way to admit low-ATAR students, without commensurate increases in support needed to complete their degrees.”

Sometimes the argument against the VCE and the ATAR seems to imply there is no room for broader education initiatives if you focus on getting good academic results. It is not an ‘either or’ situation and Haileybury students with their huge breadth of opportunities in sport, music, drama, creative arts, entrepreneurship and enterprise activities are fine examples of this.

Throwing out the ATAR and replacing it with Learner Profiles — a kind of extracurricular CV — would replace the one seriously rigorous, objective and fair admissions standard with an opaque, subjective one.

Of course, there should be a genuine debate around this and how different aspects might be merged to produce a more rounded outcome. But we shouldn’t consider throwing out rigour and academic discipline for the sake of lowering standards to make it easier to get to university.

Derek Scott

CEO | Principal