Education Minister Simon Birmingham says universities must become more transparent about their admissions policies. Photo: Louise KennerleyUniversities face losing access to government funding and loans unless they come clean to prospective students about the true entry requirements for their courses under reforms to be introduced by the Turnbull government.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham will on Friday announce plans to clear away the “fog and double speak that has clouded higher education admissions processes” so students can make informed decisions about what to study and where.
The centrepiece of the transparency measures will be a new My School-style website, set to launch in 2018, that will allow students to compare the admissions requirements for universities around the country.
The changes follow a review by the government’s Higher Education Standards Panel found that “university admissions requirements are becoming more complex and harder to understand” and “urgent improvement” is needed. It found there was particular confusion about how ATAR cut offs are used and how universities apply their bonus point schemes.
The review was sparked by Fairfax Media revelations that up to 60 per cent of students at some universities were being admitted below the advertised minimum ATAR requirements.
Senator Birmingham will tell his state and territory counterparts that the government has adopted all 14 of the review’s recommendations.
“There will be no more hiding behind fluffy descriptions of entry requirements or inaccessible information on graduate outcomes,” Senator Birmingham said.
“The Turnbull government’s reforms put the onus on universities and higher education providers to be upfront and honest about what they can offer prospective students.”
Rather than a single ATAR “cut off”, the Higher Education Standards Panel review called for universities to publish for each course: the lowest ATAR to receive an offer;the maximum number of bonus points available;the percentage of students admitted with bonus points; andthe ATAR required to be in the top 25 per cent, bottom 25 per cent and the middle of the student intake.
Senator Birmingham said he expected universities to support the transparency push but would consider linking access to government funding and loans contingent to the publication of the necessary information. Some universities, including the elite Group of Eight, have already decided to publish more transparent information about their entrance requirements.
Universities and other higher education providers will also have to adopt a common language on admissions processes and requirements and use templates to deliver the information in a consistent way. Tertiary admissions centres will also have to work together to make it easier for students to apply for courses in different states.
The announcement comes as the government publishes a raft of new information on a website showing how satisfied students are with their university and employment outcomes for recent graduates.
The latest update shows student satisfaction for some top universities, such as the University of NSW and the University of Sydney, was far lower than less prestigious institutions such as the University of New England. Private provider Bond University record a 90 per cent satisfaction rate compared to 81 per cent for the University of Melbourne, 77 per cent for the University of Sydney and 76 per cent for UNSW. Victoria University scored the lowest with a satisfaction rating of 74.8 per cent.
Charles Sturt University had the best employment outcomes of the public universities, with 84 per cent of graduates in full time employment four months after graduating. This compared to 70 per cent for the University of Sydney, 64 per cent for the University of Melbourne and 62 per cent for RMIT University. Flinders University in Adelaide had the lowest graduate employment outcome with just 55 per cent of students in full-time work after graduating.
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