ACT News


ANU to double intake of gifted students

The Australian National University will double the number of gifted and talented college students it takes on in early admission to university study, broadening its recruitment across the border to NSW.

From 2014, the ANU will take 240 year 11 and year 12 students each year into a range of science and Asian language subjects through the ANU extension diploma of advanced studies.

At the end of year 12, students will be able to transfer straight into a degree with full credit for the university subjects completed.

The new diploma course will be unveiled on Monday as a replacement of previous pathway courses through the ANU Secondary College launched in 2006 and will include new units in Mandarin, Indonesian, Hindi and Korean, engineering and astronomy.

Year 11 Narrabundah College student Ayesha Rahim was one of this year's recruits to undertake undergraduate chemistry.

While other college students head home each Thursday, Ayesha catches a bus for the ANU campus where she completes a two-hour chemistry lecture from 4.30pm.


She admitted she was usually a little more tired than usual come Fridays but the chance to study chemistry at a higher level using state-of-the-art tertiary lab equipment was invaluable and ''definitely worth it''.

ANU deputy vice-chancellor (academic), Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, said the program had been ''a victim of its own success'' and the university was being forced to turn away students because it did not have the space or facilities to teach them.

The program is at capacity, taking 240 students over two years. The ACT government contributes $100,000 each year to help keep it running.

Professor Hughes-Warrington would not be drawn on whether the ANU was hoping to secure federal support for the program other than to say ''the federal government is very supportive of the initiative, which aligns with its national priorities in science education and the Asian century''.

The ANU has also been under considerable pressure to rein in its operating budget this year, but Professor Hughes-Warrington said the expansion would require some additional investment from the university and was not a cost-cutting exercise.

Government college students can attend free but non-government students pay a fee of about $900 a year. Professor Hughes-Warrington said the ANU was hopeful of making it free to all students by 2014.

She said the ANU would be investing in setting up a ''virtual college'' for the students to access on-line materials.

Currently students spend up to four contact hours a week undertaking their ANU course and several hours of associated study on top of their existing college workload.

''The extension diploma will have admission requirements such as a recommendation by the school principal that will ensure talented students from a range of backgrounds in the ACT region will benefit from this opportunity,'' Professor Hughes-Warrington said.

The ANU would begin recruiting for potential students from NSW, she said.

The university was also considering ways in which to encourage schools to nominate students from disadvantaged backgrounds.