ANU To End The ATAR Game

ANU’s new entry system increases requirements and changes the application deadline. Designed with “the ultimate sympathy towards students and families”, according to Deputy Vice-Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington (MHW), the change was first flagged last year, and builds on the Spirit of Excellence Entry Scheme, which awards early entry based on student’s prior achievements. Applicants will be required to earn a minimum number of ‘points,’ for music, debating, sports and other activities.  If a student has an ATAR of 99.95, but has no such activities, they will not be admitted, MHW told the Observer.

She concedes privileged students are better placed to participate in such activities. But the ANU has consulted with the Smith Family, a leading disadvantaged children’s charity, to put counter-measures in place. Part time work will be highly regarded, and caring commitments will be considered. When asked to comment, Deputy Disabilities Officer Shae Nicholson expressed concern, calling it “near impossible to quantify the impact of a caring role”, and noted students may be required to disclose the nature and impact of their disability.

ANU plans to implement a mid-year application process, meaning most students will apply for entry, scholarships, and accommodation in the middle of Year 12. MHW explained this guarantees students and families adequate time to plan. Students who do not meet this deadline can receive offers in the main UAC round, but these students cannot obtain scholarships.

Students will now make one application for admission, scholarships, and accommodation. MHW claims this increased efficiency will help offset the added processing workload. Many interpret this change as Americanisation, especially in light of VC Brian Schmidt’s support. MHW argued this point, given ANU’s system will not require US-style personal statements or references; students will simply tick or write in activities they’ve done.

As part of the admission changes, the Observer understands ANU demanded inclusion in the tertiary entrance systems of all states and territories, rather than just UAC, owing to its status as the National University. When Western Australia, Queensland, and South Australia refused, MHW took them to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), causing Queensland to immediately relent.

ANU is interested in extending this change to international and post-graduate applicants. When it comes to international students, “the way you think about equity changes”, said MHW.

The changes will go to the University Education Committee, ANUSA and PARSA later this year.

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