University of Sydney announces new fixed minimum ATARs

The University of Sydney will for the first time publish its minimum ATARs for entry into most courses, in a bid to provide more certainty for students and ensure entry is based on academic standards rather than demand.

From Monday, students will know the ATARs they will need to receive an offer for the majority of the university's undergraduate courses, in what deputy vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin said represents "a major change" from previous years.

Until now, Sydney University, like most institutions, has provided estimated "ATAR cut-offs" based on the the previous year's intake.

"The fixed ATAR will be based on an academic judgment," Professor Carlin said. "You set a level of academic preparedness that you'd expect a candidate to have [for each program]."

Professor Carlin said minimum ATARs are unlikely to change over the years, increasing certainty for students.

"Our business school adopted the fixed ATAR model five years ago and hasn't changed its [minimum] ATAR in that time. Same with our law school.

"Our aim is to be simple and transparent and eliminate uncertainty around the ATARs universities might require by saying this is what you will need."

The change will affect the vast majority of University of Sydney students, with more than 80 per cent of the undergraduate intake admitted only on the basis of ATAR.

Professor Carlin said the new approach will apply to most courses but some degrees, such as physiotherapy, will be excluded because of strict intake numbers and admissions requirements. Alternative entry pathways that look at other factors for entry will also remain unchanged.

With this latest move, the University of Sydney is going a step further than required in the national admissions transparency plan, which was announced by the Turnbull government in July.

Under the plan, all Australian universities will now be required to report the raw minimum and maximum ATARs of students who are offered places in each course.

The bid for greater transparency in the university admissions process comes after a Fairfax Media investigation revealed many universities had been accepting students with ATARs well below the advertised cut-off.

Other institutions such as the University of NSW, have been publishing ATARs that will guarantee students a place in the relevant course, but still make offers to students with ATARs below that if places are available.

UNSW also introduced a minimum ATAR requirement of 80 for entry into most undergraduate degrees.

Kim Paino, general manager of marketing and engagement at the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), said the University of Sydney's move could be linked to growing concerns around university retention rates.

"Now that universities are really concerned about retention, their own understanding of the situation is that above a certain ATAR, not considering external factors, there's little risk that a student will drop out," Mrs Paino said.

The latest figures released by the Higher Education Standards Panel show that more than 20 per cent of students at Australian universities do not complete their course.

Mrs Paino said the change will be good for students, who will get more certainty around ATAR requirements and "won't waste their preferences" on courses into which they are unlikely to be accepted.

The story University of Sydney announces new fixed minimum ATARs first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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