Deputy Vice Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington of the Australian National University (ANU) has fleshed out the University’s plan to abandon ATAR as a sole entry requirement.
In 2016, Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt announced that ANU aimed to “lead the country”, by considering a student’s “co-curricular and community contributions”.
Under the new system, students will apply in the middle of year 12, and will receive points for every extra-curricular activity, such as sport, music, or volunteering. To gain entry, students must meet a minimum points threshold.
According to Hughes-Warrington, a student with a 99.95 ATAR and no activities would not be admitted.
Their new admissions process thus appears reminiscent of the highly complex and subjective American college application system.
In an interview with The ANU Observer, however, Hughes-Warrington rejected claims that the new process would lead to an ‘Americanization’ of the admissions system, saying that students would not be required to write personal essays. Instead, they would simply have to list their relevant activities.
Effectively, the ANU appears to be replacing one ranking system with another. Whilst ATAR discriminates between students based on their exam scores, the proposed system ranks students on the strength of their CVs.
According to Schmidt, the changes will boost accessibility for students from regional Australia, who are excluded by the high ATAR cut-offs in subjects such as law.
However, extra-curricular activities tend to be far more inaccessible for disadvantaged students.
Whether or not these changes actually benefit those most in need is ultimately unclear.