New report questions importance of ATAR

21 March 2018

Written by: Shannon Jenkins

Is the ATAR still relevant?

Only one in four students are accepted into university based on their Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR), according to a report from the Mitchell institute.

The report found that universities are using other methods to select students, including aptitude tests, interviews, bridging courses and bonus point schemes.

 Mitchell Institute Director, Megan O’Connell, said governments and educators should question the relevance of the ATAR system.

“To be successful in future jobs and participate in society, young people need a broad range of knowledge, skills and capabilities that might not all contribute to a high ATAR,” O’Connell said.

The ATAR is a ranking based on year 12 students’ results. The system was designed to assist universities and simplify the student selection process.

Universities are using other methods to select undergraduates, and student admissions have grown by 46 percent in less than ten years.

Despite the ATAR losing relevance, students still base their capabilities and success on the number they receive.

Some year 12 students select subjects that they believe will score higher, rather than choosing subjects that they enjoy.

University course selection is also influenced by the importance that students place on their ATAR.

Some students enrol in courses that have high cut-off scores because they believe this reflects the quality of the course, rather than pursuing their passions.

O’Connell said policy makers and educators should prioritise the individual strengths, interests and career opportunities of students rather than aiming to achieve a high ATAR.

“Schools could play a leading role in growing students’ talents and developing capabilities that are important for lifelong success, but this is often overlooked in favour of teaching content for high ATARs,” O’Connell said.

“It is time to look across our education system, decide what we want it to deliver for young people, for communities and for our future economy, then consider what role, if any, the ATAR should play.”