Victoria University (VU) has been admitting students with no ATARs into university teaching courses.
According to the VU website, it is now not necessary for a student to have an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) to get their foot in the door to become a teacher through their Bachelor of Education Studies program.
Although the course doesn’t award its graduates teacher-registration, it gives students an alternative pathway to transfer into their second year in the program to a Bachelor of Education (P-12). Those who graduate as a Bachelor of Education (P-12) are accredited by the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) allowing them to seek employment as a school teacher in Victoria.
Victorian Minister of Education James Merlino raised the minimum ATAR for Year 12 students to enter into undergraduate teaching from 65 to 70 in 2016. A 2016 press release revealed their new Excellence in Teacher Education reform that raises the standard for teaching by only having the top 30 percent of Year 12 students doing a teaching degree.
“These reforms are about putting people first by making sure our teaching courses are the best in the country and attract the highest quality students,” said Merlino.
Merlino went on Twitter to criticise those that are taking advantage of the loophole and ordered the Victorian Institute of Teaching to launch an investigation.
He warned that any university that didn’t comply with the reforms to raise the standards for teaching would risk losing their accreditation.
If VIT’s investigation finds Universities are not following the rules their accreditation to deliver teaching courses will be in jeopardy
— James Merlino (@JamesMerlinoMP) August 11, 2018
Victoria University’s Tim Newhouse responded by saying that not all students who enrolled into a Bachelor of Education Studies would move into teaching, reported the Herald Sun. He said that the program would also provide pathways into other occupations including “mentoring and tutoring, community programs, public and welfare services, after-school care, and teacher aide positions.”
An RMIT spokeswoman added that RMIT allows students who have underachieved in high school due to adversity in their life to redeem themselves by giving them an opportunity to study.
Merlino is aware that universities give special consideration for students because his Excellence in Teacher Education reform involves giving 60 scholarships a year to aspiring teaching students from regional or disadvantaged backgrounds. What he won’t stand for is ”universities attempting to bypass and undercut our reforms to boost numbers to make money.”
Underachieving Teaching Students
In the hearing, Senator Jacinta Collins pointed to a report by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) which stated that the proportion of the total amount of ITE students with no submitted ATAR in 2006 was 29 percent, and that this had increased to 36 percent in 2017.
The report (pdf) showed that some universities had proportions where student intake with no ATAR exceeded that amount. The Federation University of Australia admitted 173 (60%), Flinders University admitted 187 (48%), Southern Cross University 196 (85%), and The University of Notre Dame Australia with a staggering admission of 228 students (100%).
AITSL responded to Collins’s query in regards to whether there are other elements that would cause someone to be in the ‘No ATAR’ group. AITSL said that the Higher Education Student Data Collection (HESDC) collects ATAR rankings as normal and that those students who don’t have an ATAR score under their name are categorised as ‘No ATAR.’
The number of students admitted to ITE undergraduate courses with lower ATAR rankings has also increased, with 42 percent of students with an ATAR of 70 or lower being admitted in 2015 compared to 25 percent in 2006, the report stated. It also reported that this trend has been seen across all higher education programs, but the problem has been more severe in teaching and education.