New research — Equity implications of non-ATAR pathways: Participation, academic outcomes, and student experience
Development of alternative entry pathways has been encouraged to boost higher education enrolments among equity groups. However, evidence is scarce on trends in admission to university study through alternative pathways, and on the comparative outcomes of students from various pathways.
This NCSEHE-funded project led by Dr Ian Li from The University of Western Australia addressed four key research questions:
- What are the proportions of students entering undergraduate study through Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and non-ATAR pathways in Australian universities?
- What are the proportions, numbers, and trends over time—by equity group status—of those who access university education through non-ATAR and ATAR pathways?
- How are equity students from non-ATAR pathways distributed across courses, and are there observable trends and patterns?
- Do student outcomes (retention, progression, student experience, academic performance, work readiness) differ based on the type of entry pathway and equity group status?
Findings indicated that despite ATAR being the most common pathway to university, there has been a gradual decline in the number of students accessing university this way in the past 10 years. The growth in alternative entry pathways was stronger for students from all equity groups except for Indigenous students.
Alternative pathways (e.g., completion of another higher education course, entry via VET courses, access schemes and enabling programs) are increasingly being used by students to gain admission into universities but students from alternative entry pathways broadly reported a less positive student experience than students entering directly from secondary school.
This research was conducted under the NCSEHE Research Grants Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.