NPP Projects

Assessment Selection Methodology – Low SES Recruitment

Lead University: Flinders University

Lead Researcher: Peter Torjul

Research Team: Peter Torjul, Lee Pope, Dave Roberts, Genevieve Haskett, Martin Westwell, Kristin Vonney, Ancret Szpak, Verity Kingsmill and Melina Lipkiewicz

Year Funded: 2015

Funding Received: $219,877

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6474272.v1



This project developed a flexible higher education admissions pathway and selection process for low SES students based on their aptitude for university study. The program was delivered to Year 11 and Year 12 students through on-campus and in-school events, including regional and remote centres. Activities were based around: problem solving; oral presentations; experimental/lab simulations; written assessment reports; multimedia activities; case studies; games; and group discussions.

Project outline

  • The project aimed to develop an alternative evidence-based admissions pathway for low socioeconomic (SES) students based around an Assessment Selection Centre (ASC) methodology.
  • Two admission pathways were developed: for Year 11 students entering university at the end of their Year 12; and for Year 12 students entering university the following year.
  • The ASC methodology allowed the University to consider applicants based on their ability to demonstrate high-level skills required for higher education.
  • Students were assessed against five characteristics: creativity; analytical intelligence; practical intelligence; wisdom; and mindful agency. Other criteria used to validate the admissions process included motivation, resilience and curiosity.
  • The University developed a series of selection activities in consultation with faculties, schools and academic staff in the key discipline areas. The activities were based around: problem solving; oral presentations; experimental/lab simulations; written assessment reports; multimedia activities; case studies; games; and group discussions.
  • The project was delivered through multiple nodes, including: on campus events; in-school events; regional and remote delivery; specific or combined study areas; and Year 11 or 12 either exclusive or combined.
  • The University partnered with 31 schools across metropolitan and regional–remote areas in South Australia. The schools encompassed all types, including public, Catholic and independent. Around 90 per cent of schools were considered low SES and all participating students were from a low SES background.

Key findings

  • The outcomes were seen as very successful:
    • 484 students registered for the program
    • 348 students participated
    • 270 students successfully completed the activities
    • 210 offers were made by the University to students
      • 161 Year 11 (52 in 2016; and 109 in 2017)
      • 49 Year 12 (32 in 2016; and 17 in 2017)
  • Based on ‘action research methodology’, an iterative cycle of feedback was incorporated into the project. This informed the development of a number of different assessment centre approaches, including:
    • study area specific assessment events including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), humanities and digital media
    • on-campus assessment events for individual school groups with a generic focus on study areas
    • in-school assessment events for Year 11 and 12 students
    • regional assessment centre delivery, engaging students from multiple regional schools across Years 11 and 12. These were seen as ‘whole of community’ initiatives, fully embraced by participating students, teachers, school leaders, parents and caregivers.
  • Each sequence of events informed planning and development of future initiatives.
  • As regards the completion rates of students completing the initiatives, 270 out of 348 students represented a 78 per cent success rate. Completion rates were evenly distributed across year levels relevant to the number of students participating.
  • Successful completion of the assessment centre approach resulted in 210 offers being made, once applications from students had been received. This represents a 78 per cent completion to offer rate.
  • Investigation into the 28 per cent attrition rate (failure to convert student registrations into participation). A prominent issue appeared to be anxiety and a lack of understanding as to what was involved in the program. In response to this, communication tools were redeveloped and disseminated.


  • A consultant’s review of the project produced the following recommendations:
    • Continue with previously identified attributes of creative, practical and analytic thinking, thinking with wisdom and mindful agency.
    • Include additional measurable attributes of motivation, resilience and curiosity.
    • Consider the use of online psychometric testing adding value to the measurement process.
    • Use an online measurement of emotional intelligence that can identify aptitude and competency across multiple attributes.
    • Appoint an assessment centre facilitator to oversee the events.
    • Standardise a training package for assessors for inclusivity across study areas.
    • Implement a measurement and ranking matrix to enable a sound and objective decision-making process for university admissions.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 7 June 2018