In the world of higher education, students and parents often equate success with high selection ranks or ATARs (Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks). It's a common misconception that a low selection rank suggests a poor-quality degree or that the program lacks academic rigour.
However, this notion couldn't be further from the truth. In this article, we will explore why low selection ranks do not necessarily reflect that a degree is of poor quality or less challenging and rather why you should look beyond the numbers when choosing your educational path.
The selective nature of ATARs
Firstly, it's essential to understand the nature of selection ranks and ATARs. They are primarily designed to rank students based on their academic performance relative to their peers. These scores are a useful tool for universities to manage the influx of students, but they have limitations when it comes to measuring degree quality.
Factors that Influence ATARs
Several factors can influence a degree's selection rank, and they may have little to do with the quality of the education it provides:
- Competition: The demand for certain degrees can drive up their ATAR cut-off scores. For example, popular programs like the Bachelor of Medical Science, and the Bachelor of Midwifery tend to have higher cut-off scores due to limited spaces.
- Geographic location: The location of a university can also impact the selection ranks. Regional universities, like UniSC might have lower selection thresholds due to lower competition in those areas.
- Degree specifics: A degree might require a lower ATAR for reasons other than quality. For example, a newer or specialised degree may not have as many applicants, resulting in a lower threshold.
- Entrance exams or interviews: Some degrees, such as the Bachelor of Music place more emphasis on portfolios, or auditions, rather than ATAR scores.
- University growth: When a university adds a new campus, more places for students are made available, which can consequently lower selection thresholds while they grow enrolments.
Quality over rank
The most crucial aspect when determining the quality of a degree is the educational experience it offers. Here's why low selection ranks do not necessarily imply poor quality:
- Work-integrated learning: When your child is assessing which program is right for them, they should research the practical learning opportunities they will receive as part of the degree. Will they experience hands-on learning? Does the degree offer internships or placements? Will they be connected with the industry during their studies so they’re ready to hit the ground running when they graduate? Rather than focusing on the selection rank to determine quality, consider the practical skills they’ll gain from the degree to determine its quality.
- Quality of teaching: Focus on the reputation of the university and the qualifications and expertise of the teaching staff. Exceptional educators can provide a high-quality learning experience, regardless of the selection rank of the program. UniSC has been rated 5 stars for teaching quality since 2006, so you can be sure that your child will be taught by engaging and high quality educators.
- Personal goals: Students have different goals and expectations from their education. A program with a lower selection rank might align perfectly with a student's career ambitions, making it the right choice despite its rank.
- Specialisation: Some degrees that have lower ATAR requirements might be more specialised and provide highly relevant skills and knowledge for certain industries. These programs can be immensely valuable for students who have a clear career path in mind.
When your child is choosing a degree, it's crucial to remember that the quality of education goes beyond a single number or rank. Low selection thresholds or ATARs don't necessarily equate to poor quality. Factors such as practical learning, personal interest, course specialisation, teaching quality, and individual career goals play a significant role in determining the value of a degree. Your child should do their your research, read program descriptions and course outlines to understand what they’ll be learning and how they’ll be taught to determine if the program is right for them.
Ultimately, what matters most is a student's dedication, passion, and the effort they put into their education. Students shouldn't be discouraged by low ATAR requirements. Instead, they should focus on finding a program that aligns with their interests and aspirations, and be prepared to excel regardless of the ranking. After all, it's their commitment and enthusiasm that will define the true quality of their educational journey.