WORDS || Satyajeet Marar (B Laws/ B Arts – 5th year)
In a disgraceful state of affairs, students up to 40 points short of the mandated ATAR cut-offs are being accepted into courses including business, teaching, law and engineering according to the 2016 admissions figures from Macquarie University, University of Sydney, UNSW and Western Sydney University.
Club Macq has been especially involved with up to 2/3rds of students offered places despite failing to meet advertised ATAR requirements according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The value of our degrees is being cheapened, with an already saturated job market being flooded with more hopeless graduates competing for fewer jobs. When there are students with an ATAR of 60 getting into the intellectually demanding law course at Macquarie, there is a serious problem. Many of these students will inevitably drop out of law, carrying an unnecessary debt with them in the process. Those who end up graduating with low grades will end up not using their degree at all because they will be weeded out of the job market. This is a market where students with even average grades often struggle to find work.
Universities couldn’t care less, after all their profits are ensured by the government which guarantees student loans. That means we get fucked over twice – once by the university charging the same cost for a course that is less likely to land a job and twice because we as future taxpayers have a government that guarantees the student loans which will be defaulted. For the provider, it’s a win-win situation and they’re laughing all the way to the bank.
I’m not saying that ATAR is even necessarily an accurate indicator of intelligence and acumen, but it is the closest to a reliable indicator of merit we have for high school students at least. The regulated education sector means that finance is not a barrier to entry. Though this is great because it ensures access to education, it also means that people often choose their uni course because they can or they want to go to uni for fun and not because they see it as an investment in their future which carries risk like any other investment. It is only when they hit the real world to pursue their intended future with debt that they realise what that means.
If you don’t make the cutoff for your course, you should have to prove that you’re still fit for it in other ways. Internal transfer or using the results of another course/university for example. Perhaps a nuanced model could be implemented whereby failure to meet ATAR requirements can be ameliorated with an interview and a sit-down test to show that you’re fit for what you’re getting into and are likely to put your degree to good use.
I worked hard to achieve my HSC results and it is appalling that the standards have fallen so low since I did. Though we are all going to get the same piece of paper at the end, will the value of that paper stay the same?