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Ministry makes comparing admissions information easier

Prospective students and their families will have better access to clear and consistent information on university entry requirements from next month under a plan unveiled by the Turnbull government.

The result of close collaboration between government and the higher education sector, the new plan will make it easier for students to get the information they need as they weigh up different study options.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the plan had been developed by a higher education sector working group in conjunction with government to ensure students, parents and schools have better access to consistent and comparable information from universities.

“Students need to be given clear and accurate advice, but too often the information on offer has been complex, confusing and inconsistent. That doesn’t do anyone any favours,” Minister Birmingham said.

“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.”

Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said: “Choosing where and what to study at university can be one of the most important decisions of a person’s life.

“Changes announced today will make it easier for students to compare entry requirements for similar university courses and understand more clearly what they need in order to be offered a place.”

Over the past decade, the number of pathways into university has broadened to reflect the diversity of student demand and where they are in their career cycle. Fewer than half of all commencing university students are school leavers. This has contributed to the need to ensure information from institutions is comparable.

The proposals include changes to the way Australian Tertiary Admission Rank or ATAR and other academic requirements are presented, and clearer, easier to understand information about the wide range of different application and assessment pathways into higher education for school leavers, mature age students and others interested in pursuing higher education.

The plan sets out the timeframes to implement the recommendations of the Higher Education Standards Panel handed down in October 2016. The aim is to implement as many of the recommendations as possible in time for the 2018 academic year. Some recommendations will take longer to implement.

By 2019, it’s anticipated the full range of proposals will be put in place, following extensive consultation with the higher education sector.

The admissions transparency plan includes:

  • Adoption of common admissions terminology and definitions;
  • Redefining ATAR-related thresholds and indicators to make them more robust;
  • A common sector-wide approach to the publication of information on institution and course admission policies;
  • More common and streamlined approaches by tertiary admission centres in each jurisdiction;
  • A new national admissions information platform.

Extensive collaboration

Chair of the implementation working group, Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, deputy vice-chancellor and provost at Victoria University, said the extensive collaboration between the Turnbull government and higher education sector showed that everybody was focused on how best to support students.

“Higher education providers and their representative organisations are fully committed to improving both the availability and comparability of information on admission requirements and processes,” Krause said.

“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 students and the sector as a whole.

“I recognise the timeframes will be challenging for some providers but the Turnbull government is committed to working with the sector to make implementation a success,” Birmingham said.

Development of the implementation plan has been informed by a public consultation process, which received 54 written submissions. The implementation working group also held a series of meetings with key stakeholders to inform their consideration.

Universities Australia, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, the Council of Private Higher Education, TAFE Directors Australia and the Tertiary Admission Centres were closely involved in developing the new benchmarks.

“We tip our hats to all those involved in the process – government, student groups and provider representatives – for the constructive approach to the development of the plan. It serves as a good model for future initiatives,” Robinson said.
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