Entry rankings to study teaching at Victorian universities have fallen again, calling into question the federal government's aim of attracting top-performing students to the profession.
Figures released on Thursday show the bar for undergraduate teacher training continues to drop, with entrance requirements to study education falling in many Victorian university courses.
The clearly-in entry ranks vary wildly for education courses, ranging from 73.05 at Monash's Berwick campus to as low as 43.35 at Ballarat University's Melbourne campus. There are only seven other university courses that allow a lower Australian tertiary admission rank than Ballarat University's education course.
The fall in admission requirements comes despite the federal government's pledge to get the country's best students to study education.
It has vowed to lift Australia's school students into the top five in the world for maths, reading and science by 2025.
Professor Stephen Dinham from Melbourne University said universities should train students to become teachers only after they had completed an undergraduate degree.
He said there was too much variation between universities on the entrance requirements for education courses. ''The standard does vary too widely and the quality of the courses themselves varies,'' he said.
Dr Dinham said taking students with a minimum rank of 75 was another option for attracting high-performing students. ''We should not be going down as low as some of the universities go,'' he said. ''A teacher who has struggled academically through their own schooling is going to find teaching difficult.''
Students at Melbourne University must complete a general undergraduate degree before they are accepted for a masters in teaching. ''The people we get in are older. They've got a degree. They've got life experience,'' Dr Dinham said.
Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said there needed to be a strong focus on teacher training standards.
''Under the National Plan for School Improvement, entrants to the teaching profession will need to be in the top 30 per cent of the country for literacy and numeracy,'' he said. ''If people starting their university courses aren't meeting that requirement but can demonstrate potential, universities will have to work with them to ensure they reach these standards before they graduate.''
At La Trobe University, the admission rank for primary education at the Bundoora campus fell from 71.4 in 2012 to 70.8 this year. The primary teaching course at Deakin's Burwood campus dropped from 62 in 2012 to 60.75 this year.
The required admission rank scores also fell at Deakin's Geelong campus and RMIT's Brunswick campus.
Secondary teaching/arts at Deakin University had a clearly-in admission rank of 51.55, down from 70.95, a drop of almost 20 points. In 2010 the same course needed an admission rank of 81.15. Its intake has also increased, from 45 first-round offers in 2010 to 289. It had the second-biggest drop in admission rank in the space of a year of any course.
Monash University's prep to 10 education course at Berwick bucked the trend, rising from 70.7 last year to 73.05. Secondary teaching at La Trobe's Bundoora campus also rose from 63.1 last year to 65.25. La Trobe University's faculty of planning and operations director, Peter Barton, said education students who achieved mid-range ATARs often performed well at universities. ''We bring people in and we make sure that we provide support and scaffolding for them to be achieving their maximum potential,'' he said.
A spokesman for Victorian Higher Education Minister Peter Hall said admission ranks indicated demand for particular courses. ''In order for teaching to be a career of choice for our best and brightest, we need to make teaching an attractive profession. This is why the government is committed to rewarding teachers based on their performance, not on their time served in the job.''