Universities will suspend handing out places to HSC students until September after more than 43,000 early entry offers were made to pupils last year before they sat their final exams.
The NSW Vice Chancellors’ Committee have released new rules governing how early offers are made to year 12 students, but school principals argue the measures will fail to stop students losing focus in the final weeks of year 12. Principals’ of many schools felt that bypassing ATARs can lead to complacency among students and was increasingly used by universities to secure enrolments in a tight market. While some principals say the offers – which in some cases are made before mid-year trial exams – help ease the stress of high-stakes tests, others warn it means students do not apply themselves as much as they might have in the last months of school.
Convener of the NSWVCC, Professor Barney Glover AO, said, “We acknowledge the views and feedback of the NSW Education Standards Authority, and some school principals around early offer programs. Protecting the integrity of the HSC is critical and early offer programs must be justifiable and transparent.”
“We also agree that student wellbeing should be a major consideration when providing early offer programs. The development of a set of principles is the first step to addressing current underlying concerns whilst maintaining benefits that accrue to students from these programs.”
The five-key principles endorsed by the NSWVCC are:
1. that universities, as self-accrediting institutions, are responsible for their admission policies and procedures, consistent with the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards)
2. that university admissions practices should be cognisant of the needs of students and ensure that those students admitted are capable of succeeding with appropriate support
3. that admission practices should be evidence-based, transparent and publicly defensible
4. that admission practices should respect and support the integrity of the HSC and are conditional on the completion of the HSC
5. that early offers for 2024 (with one agreed and unavoidable exception) will not be issued before September 2023.
These principles will apply to early offers made to students completing the HSC in 2023 for admission to
university in 2024. In supporting the integrity of the HSC, the principles will require that all early offers be
conditional on the completion of the HSC.
Western Sydney University made a record 18,800 offers through its early entry scheme last year; the University of Technology made 11,700 offers; Australian National University and Charles Sturt University made more than 5000 each; and the Australian Catholic University more than 2600 to NSW school-leavers.
Early offers were now commonplace and offered by all WA universities are also raised concerns. About 87 per cent of the year 12’s from Perth college, 70 per cent of the students from All Saint’s college received early offers.
Tertiary Information and Services Centre (TISC) chief executive Andrew Crevald said, “We’ve had feedback from teachers, parents, and students themselves that an early offer with minimal or substantively no conditions reduces the motivation for some students to do their best at school in year 12,” he said.
“We’ve also heard of students withdrawing from their ATAR subjects on the basis of favourable conditions in their early offer. Increasing numbers of students are doing this, some only a few weeks before their ATAR exams.”
“Certainly some principals have talked to me about the dangers of early offers, particularly for year 11 students, as they see these offers as preventing students excelling or doing their best to reach their academic potential,” said Andrew Taggart, chairman of the TISC, WA.
Professor Taggart furhter said early offers were part of a bigger challenge in WA where only 33.7 per cent of final year students were on an ATAR track, compared to other mainland states which were all above 50 per cent.
“With 20 per cent fewer students in the ATAR cohort, WA universities are increasingly recruiting from a declining pool of high-achieving applicants,” he said. “STEM subject enrolments are particularly impacted by this declining pool of students undertaking ‘hard’ ATAR subjects.