Unintended ATAR as a consequence of fixed student places

With the end of the demand driven system the ATAR could be back as a way to ration fixed numbers of undergraduate places and Mitchell Institute analysts Sarah Pilcher and Kate Torii are not at all happy about it.

“Despite the expansion of alternative pathways, the ATAR is maintaining its prominence as a marker for student achievement in the school system and the community more broadly  – suggesting it may be a assuming a role beyond what was intended,” they warn in a new policy paper released today.

But while the authors say they “stop short of calling for the ATAR to be replaced” they provide reasons to end it and alternatives to replace it, for example, aptitude tests, alternative entry schemes, tertiary preparation and enabling courses. They also set out how other countries organise admissions.

The unknown against this is how soon and how strong will be the need for a measure to ration undergraduate places. Pilcher and Torii suggest the frozen number of places, “may be large enough to accommodate demand in the near term.” Good-oh, but if governments stick with the new policy of tying system-wide growth to population numbers this may increase the ATARs utility for universities allocating places. And having abandoned the principle of demand driven funding a government could easily set numbers over three or four year cycles.

Rules and procedures to make the ATAR transparent now being implemented might turn out to be essential in a new system where places are rationed.



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