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What's in an ATAR? Answers from Career Counsellor, Gordon Doyle

Posted by Peter Barnes on January 13, 2016 at 4:51 PM

atar.pngDo you have a child has just finished their secondary education? Or one that will be doing so in the next few years?

Or perhaps you have sat your HSC in NSW or VCE in Victoria (or the equivalent in other Australia states) a few years ago and now you want to go to University? Will your ATAR be enough or are there other pathways ways to uni?

But what is an ATAR anyway, and what does it really mean? Career Counsellor, Gordon Doyle explains in a conversation on The Learning Capacity Podcast:

Listen to the Podcast

The ATAR is the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.

It is a number (zero to 99.95) that students are given based on their results in their final secondary school exams (HSC in NSW, VCE in Victoria etc).

“I think there's quite a bit of mythology around about the ATAR, and if we can squash some of that, and in its place put some facts and a little reality, that would be a good thing to do,” said Gordon.

“The ATAR is a device used by the universities to help select students to their courses. It's of no relevance to employers or to other providers of post-secondary education,” he continues.

In the discussion Gordon points out that there are many, many options available to young people after they finish school, including ways into university despite an ATAR lower than required for the course of their choice.

For these students, universities offer pathways like:

  • Macquarie University’s Next Step program, or Macquarie International College
  • Australian Catholic University’s access courses
  • UTS Insearch at University of Technology, Sydney
  • UWS College at the University of Western Sydney
  • University of Notre Dame’s Tertiary Enabling program and their Foundation Year program

You can hear Gordon Doyle explain these programs in the podcast conversation, plus listen to him:

  • Describe how bonus points can be added to an ATAR
  • Warn that students need to thoroughly check the validity of diploma courses offered by private colleges as a pathway to university
  • Comment on how long an ATAR is valid
  • Point out that many students do not need an ATAR and mention how some choose not to receive it
  • Relate the story of a student who was very disappointed he could not get into the Industrial design course at University of Technology Sydney. After consulting Gordon, the student took a different path that enabled him graduate from the UTS course, with an additional TAFE diploma in Product design, without taking any extra time.

Gordon says, “I don't believe the door is ever banged in a person's face these days. There's always a way. If they need to take a pathway that requires an ATAR, or at least that requires getting into a university, and they miss the ATAR cut, then, you know, there are options.”


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