Andrew Leigh is blogging on the Australian National University’s decision to offer school leavers with UAIs (ENTERs for people in other areas) that won’t get them into the university a separate admissions test.
The ANU is selling this ‘as a way to provide greater access and equity’. But when it comes to anything that can affect university status, such as the quality of the student intake, the first assumption ought to be that every university statement is shameless spin.
In this case, a more interesting place to start than the university’s explanation might be the NSW/ACT university application statistics (pdf). Though overall the number of applicants is up, for the ANU first-preference applications are fractionally down. That spells trouble for the ANU, because this year the ANU was about 200 places under-enrolled (less than their quota, that is). Given part-time enrolments, that would translate into more than 200 persons. If that was caused mainly by weak commencing student numbers in 2006, they have double trouble: not only do they need to make up lost numbers, but they have a ‘pipeline’ problem in that their second year cohort will be slightly smaller than they had originally planned.
An obvious solution is to fiddle with the entrance requirements, and enrol people who would have liked to go to the ANU but whose school results were below the minimum ENTER of 75 the ANU otherwise requires.
If this was a genuine equity and access measure, why did the ANU wait until now to publicise this option? Why is it not more finely targeted at ‘equity’ groups? – most universities have schemes that let people from disadvantaged backgrounds in on lower ENTER scores than normal, but with proof of disadvantage.
There is nothing wrong with using alternatives to Year 12 results for admissions. In fact, across the higher education sector less than half of bachelor degree admissions are based directly on Year 12 results. But in this case, ‘equity’ is being used to hide declining interest in the ANU’s courses from the brightest school leavers.