Higher education is largely closed to school students without ATARS, notably in Queensland, “where the tracking of Indigenous and low SES students into non-ATAR pathways is particularly glaring.”
Andrew Harvey (Griffith U) with colleagues Lucy McDermid and Rebecca Wren used Queensland survey data for Y12 completers, to discover 42 per cent of students state-wide take a non-ATAR path. This increases to 58 per cent in the south Brisbane Logan LGA, which has a “relatively high” low SES population.
The non-ATAR track tends to result in an effective exclusion of most from HE – and lower rates of participation in education and training in general.
While 65 per cent of Y12 ATAR-track students go on to bachelor courses, only 5 per cent of the ATAR-absent do and they are four times more likely to be not working or in education/training.
State-wide, three quarters of Indigenous students are in non-ATAR streams and only 5 per cent of them go on to HE.
Overall, in 2021 Queensland had the third lowest proportion of 20 year olds in tertiary education in the country, ahead of only the Northern Territory and Tasmania, which the authors attribute to streaming of marginalised students in schools.
The take-out: Accord reforms could encourage universities to, “develop pathways and engagement with all school students.”
As Professor Harvey has previously argued, “there are merits to diversifying curriculum, increasing VET provision in schools, and reducing reliance on ATARs. However, much of the current streaming appears to be reducing rather than increasing choice, particularly for students already under-represented in higher education. With Labor governments in power across most of the country, new strategies and targets are required that move beyond the focus on Year 12 completions,” (Campus Morning Mail, June 4 2023).