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UC denies it's a soft ATAR touch

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Some courses at the University of Canberra are being almost filled with students who have not scored the minimum marks officially required to be there.

New data from a Fairfax Media investigation into university admissions has revealed that in one course at the institution, justice studies, 96 per cent of the school leavers had not achieved the marks advertised as necessary to be offered a place.

Just three of the 16 high school graduates from 2015 offered places in UC's bachelor of primary education this year had an ATAR score above the notional 60 cut-off for the course

In nursing, four out of the 12 school leavers due to start their degree at Belconnen this year had made the official cut.

But some degrees remain tough nuts to crack with just one school leaver offered a place to study physiotherapy at UC this year without achieving the headline ATAR cut-off of score 89.

The university says there is more to its entry offers than just ATAR scores and that relying on the raw data, without taking into account other factors that boost a student's eligibility, could be misleading.


"Those finishing Year 12 and going straight into university are evaluated in terms of a selection rank, which considers ATAR scores and bonus points schemes, so the process is more complicated than just a raw score and it varies from case to case," a spokeswoman said on Friday.

"Many of the students would have been allocated bonus points on top of their ATAR.

"These could be assigned to the student through different schemes."

The latest set of statistics also shows unis around NSW are routinely admitting students below the advertised cut-off, with the majority being admitted through bonus point schemes. 

University of Technology Sydney's Bachelor of Advanced Science course, which students undertake before entering the nation's top medical faculties, has offered 85 per cent of places to high school students who failed to score the minimum 96.9 ATAR. 

Out of the relatively small candidature of 14, only two passed the required mark in the prestigious course.

Within the university's much larger Bachelor of Business cohort of 462 high school graduates, 70 per cent of students did not make the advertised grade. 

"Looking at the entry policies of universities right now, flexible is not the right word, they are endlessly elastic," said Richard Hil, a university admissions researcher from Griffith University. 

"We have been concerned about regional universities for a long time, but what is really surprising is the numbers in the more well-known group of eight," he said. 

An ATAR [Australia Tertiary Admissions Rank] is awarded to tens of thousand of ACT and NSW high school students in December each year. 

Universities set an ATAR cut-off according to what they believe is the minimum academic standard required to complete a course, as well as supply and demand for the degree. 

UTS Provost Professor Peter Booth said that places offered by UTS to prospective high school applicants are done primarily on the basis they have satisfied ATAR cut-offs, unless there are specific course requirements or they are considered as part of Special Access schemes. 

"The claim that a large number of admissions don't meet the cut-off are incorrect and don't take account of the well known above adjustments, the details of which are publicly available to applicants," Professor Booth said.