Failing Grade

29 August 2016

On 1 August, the Australian National University (ANU) announced that it will be the first university in Australia to assess all students’ applications with a variety of criteria rather than solely by Year 12 ATAR results.

According to Vice-Chancellor Brain Schmidt, ANU will also consider students’ extra-curricular activities and community contributions during their time at high school.

ANU will implement these changes from 2018 and keep them for the next six years.

UMSU Education (Academic) Officer Paul Sakkal has weighed in on the debate. When asked if he would support the University of Melbourne judging its applicants by their extra-curricular activities and community contributions he expressed that, “ANU’s decision is definitely an interesting one. ATAR acting as the sole factor in admission certainly has its issues but it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s undoubtedly an issue we as a university cohort need to have a robust discussion about and we welcome the establishment up of a working group looking at the issue within ACCC”.

“It is fantastic,” Lucy, a second-year student at the University of Melbourne, told Farrago. Lucy moved to Melbourne when she was in Year 12 but the challenges of her senior year of high school almost turned her study life upside down.

“You know, it was a totally new system and new environment,” she said.

“I was the typical top student in my previous school in Queensland but when I moved to Melbourne, I fell far behind.”

Lucy tried to centre her life on studying but could not endure the monotony. She took up volunteering and other non-academic pastimes. Lucy says she would have appreciated the opportunity to have these pursuits recognised.

However, not all students are as keen on the idea. Vicki is a Year 12 student at Buckley Park College and has dreamed of getting into ANU for a long time. She fears that having to juggle all her subjects with volunteering and extracurricular obligations will make the nightmare year even more stressful.

“Our Office will be heavily involved in the discussions surrounding this issue and we’re keen to explore whether or not this reform is suitable to our university; there’s a lot to like about the idea of admitting students based on their extra-curriculum and community contributions, as well as altering the admissions system to give more weight to equity and socio-economic issues,” said Sakkal.


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