Speech by Go8 CEO: Ensuring Transparent ATAR and Alternative Entry Admissions

17 Aug 2016
Keynote speech: Ensuring Transparent ATAR and Alternative Entry Admissions
Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive, Group of Eight Australia


Good morning.
I am very pleased to be here and thank you for inviting me to speak. I know that the 101 of delivering a speech suggests you must start with a joke, especially if it’s a morning speech. Just to wake everyone up. Sorry, but I totally lucked out on finding one that could accompany this subject matter. Maybe there isn’t much to laugh about.

Or, alternatively, note to self: try harder next time! The title of the conference “Re-defining University Admissions Strategies” is, of course, very pertinent, even controversial, which I hope makes up for the missing joke in terms of holding your interest. It has certainly become prime media fodder, especially over the past two years.

Now that hasn’t been particularly helpful, because the headlines have not been able to unpack the complexities of the situation successfully. Too often the sector has looked as if we toss bonus points around like confetti. And too often what is overlooked is the fact that we genuinely seek to ensure student capabilities and equity are always aligned in our entry processes.

But the muddied image the public has been left with has hardly been conducive to trusting the sector. That is to be regretted.we have learned from the lack of positive reporting that we must be even more transparent about our offers and admissions criteria. Only total transparency can reassure potential students and their families that the system is just.

Indeed - as our Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham said in a speech last week ‘we must put the individual student front and centre in higher education…...Greater transparency on student satisfaction and employment outcomes will also allow students to make more informed choices about their study options and career prospects.”

It’s a sentiment the Go8 not only agrees with but is acting upon. As UWA Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson remarked last week ‘students are deeply sensitive to the ATAR and won’t apply for courses if they don’t think they will get in.’ That being the case he said – ‘students needed to be armed with correct and clear information when taking on such a big — and expensive — life decision.’

For that reason many of you would be aware that Go8 members committed in early May to making their offer/acceptance data publicly available and online by 1 September. This move by the Go8 was led in June by UNSW; and UWA publishing their information two weeks ago. As a group, Go8 universities will deliver enhanced transparency in admissions, consistent with the commitment we made earlier this year, demonstrating we are at the forefront in this area.

We hope this access to information will allay the concerns of students and their families, and put to bed the suggestions the bonus point system was being used wrongly and flagrantly. The Go8’s positioning on transparency surrounding offers and acceptances, has been made very clear. To give you a profile as context:

The majority of our undergraduate students – approaching 70 per cent - come to us based on ATAR results. For the rest of the sector, this proportion is only 31 per cent of entry based on ATAR. Collectively, the Go8 currently has 23 per cent of Australia’s domestic undergraduate students. In 2015, fewer than 10 per cent of Go8 offers were made to applicants with an ATAR below 78 and the median offer ATAR was 92.

Please click here for the full speech