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catallaxy in technical exile

How bright do you need to be to go to university?

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Brendan Nelson and Jenny Macklin are fighting again over whether there are enough university places. What’s prompted this latest exchange is a new report from the Australian Council for Educational Research on the school leavers who apply for university but don’t get offered a place.

Unsurprisingly, the main reason they didn’t get offered a place was that their ENTER score wasn’t high enough. Their mean ENTER was 54, and 90% of them had ENTERs below 73. Macklin nevertheless insists that:

20,000 people missed out on university this year because there weren’t enough places, not because they weren’t good enough to get in.

As I have argued before, caution is required in advocating expansion of university enrolments. It’s not just the risk of ending up without a job that utilises university credentials. It is that students with low ENTER scores may not end up with a worthwhile credential at all.

Completions data shows that the weaker your school results, the lower your chances of finishing your degree. Analysis of the relationship between school and university results also suggests that people with ENTERs below 80 often struggle at university. Average marks are low, and correlations between school and university results low or nil. Some people with weak school results might do ok at university, but a lot won’t. A careers adviser, aware of individual circumstances, might prudently recommend that a particular person apply for a particular course despite below 80 school results. For policymakers, however, there is no clear case for expanding the system to soak up unmet demand from applicants with under 80 ENTERs.


Written by Admin

December 2, 2005 at 6:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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