Monday, September 05, 2011

Australia: Foundation Studies Program "sells" entry to University of Adelaide for able students

All the whining below about money should not obscure the fact that this is probably a good way of getting kids into university who are more suitable for it. Public examinations are not terribly good predictors of success at university.

My son did something similar, though no payment was involved. The University of Qld. offered bright kids in their final High School year the chance of doing a university subject in that same year -- as well as their normal High school studies. Few apply as it sounds very challenging. My son was the only one in his school who took up the offer. But he did well in all his studies at both levels so was therefore of course a shoo-in to his preferred course at the State's most highly esteemed university

STUDENTS who pay $7800 can secure direct entry into all of the University of Adelaide's bachelor degrees based on their Year 11 results.

Students who complete the university's Foundation Studies Program, dubbed "uni without Year 12", offered through Eynesbury College, receive assured direct entry into all of its bachelor degrees.

Parent and student groups have questioned the program's fairness, criticising a system they say effectively allows students to buy their way into university. Entry into the program requires only successful completion of Year 11.

The flyer promoting the program states: "Students offered a place in the FSP will no longer have to compete with thousands of others as they are given a conditional offer of admission to their preferred Bachelor degree at the University. This means no SACE and no SATAC application."

Most South Australian Year 12 students who apply for university must complete their SA Certificate of Education and receive an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank that provides a comparison to students who have completed different subject combinations.

Using their ATAR, students apply for a place in their preferred undergraduate course through the SA Tertiary Admissions Centre, competing for a place based on merit.

Eynesbury College (International) director and principal Peter Millen said that upon application, students would be assessed on their ability to successfully complete the program, which would include the prerequisite subjects the student needed depending on their chosen degree.

Mr Millen said successful applicants would receive an offer from the University of Adelaide that would specify a mark out of 500 they must achieve to maintain their place. "It's a completely separate program, they are scored out of 500 so, if for example engineering was 380, they would have to complete the program, get 380 and have the right prerequisites," he said.

The university sets the score on a degree-by-degree basis with "similar relativities" as ATAR scores, a spokeswoman said, however, she was not able to provide examples.

University of Adelaide major projects and development director Lynne Broadbridge said offering the foundation program for domestic students was about the need to have flexible pathways and reduce the traditional barriers to university.

"Opening our foundation program offered through Eynesbury College, which has proven successful for international students since 1994, is a logical step to encourage local students to follow the aspirations to higher education," she said.

SA Association of School Parent Clubs president Jenice Zerna said it was not fair that some students would effectively be able to pay for their university place. "We are concerned that students are being provided with a university place based on how much money they or their parents have," she said.

National Union of Students president Jesse Marshall said the program appeared to be a way to get a down payment from students from wealthy backgrounds in return for guaranteed access to its programs. "The Federal Government levelled the playing field when it abolished full-fee paying places," he said.

"This program appears to take us back to the days where if you have more money you can pay your way into university."


Australian universities judged among world's best

There is a lot of arbitrariness in these rankings but it is encouraging that Australian universities do well in several ranking systems. From what I have seen of overseas universities,I myself think Australia's "sandstone" universities are as good as any -- but I hold degrees from two of them so maybe I am a bit biased. I am pleased to see that where my son is currently studying did very well in the rankings. He himself is pleased with his programme there

FIVE Australian universities have been rated among the world's top 50 but the latest global university rankings show dramatic falls by institutions outside the Group of Eight, prompting concerns over the methodology of the list.

Eight Australian institutions made it into the top 100 - 23 are in the top 500 - in the QS World University Rankings, released today.

The outstanding result has been welcomed by sector leaders, despite the big slumps among universities outside the Go8.

Top of the local league was the Australian National University, ranked 26 in the world, followed by the University of Melbourne at 31. The world league was led by the University of Cambridge, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University and the University of Oxford.

Australia's worst fall was registered by Flinders University, down 48 rankings to 299 globally. The University of Newcastle fell by 35, La Trobe University by 31 and Griffith University and the University of Tasmania by 23.

They were in a group of 13 whose rankings dropped, while nine institutions improved over past year.

The University of South Australia was up 25, Queensland University of Technology was up 22 and Curtin University and the University of Western Australia were both up 16.

Universities Australia chief executive Glenn Withers said: "To have something like 60 per cent of Australian universities in the top 500 shows the strength of our system by world standards, given there are some 16,000 institutions. (But) we need to maintain that strength.

"We are looking for the base funding review and the way the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency are going to operate to help us maintain that strength in the system."

Griffith University's deputy director, research policy, and QS board member Tony Sheil, said the rankings were "capturing more up-and-coming universities, especially from the fast-growing economies like China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea".

This was in contrast to one of its rivals, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, previously known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong, whose methodology is heavily weighted towards research performance and tends to favour older universities.

"The good news for Australia is that it performs very well on both rankings - our universities conform to what some call the global university model," Mr Sheil said.

"(However) QS does need to have a closer look at the data accuracy contained in several indicators."

He said it was not credible that several middle-ranked Australian universities outdid the California Institute of Technology for employer reputation.

The QS methodology allocates a 40 per cent weighting for academic reputation, gauged via a worldwide questionnaire, 10 per cent for reputation among employers, 20 per cent for student-to-staff ratio, 20 for citations per academic staff member, and 5 per cent each for international staff and international students.

The area of traditional weakness for Australia in the QS rankings is student-to-staff ratios. "Once again, it's disappointing to see Australia falling behind in some of the student-to-staff ratios," executive director of the leading Group of Eight universities, Michael Gallagher said.

QS singled Melbourne out for comment. "In whichever evaluations you refer to in recent times, the QS World University Rankings by Subject, The Excellence in Research for Australia initiative, or the Shanghai rankings, Melbourne keeps getting stronger," QS vice-president John Molony said.

Mr Gallagher agreed that while "there are different perspectives and flaws in all rankings systems, the consistent message is that they reinforce different groupings, especially the top tier".

The field of global rankings for universities is intensely competitive. QS claims to be the most extensive of its kind, evaluating more than 700 universities.


Zogby Back-to-School Poll: 57% Want National Standard for Advancement

54% Say Test Score Cheating by School Officials Is Widespread

A majority of adults nationwide (57%) say there should be a national standard level of learning in the nation’s public schools before students can move from one grade to another, and, 54% believe test score cheating by school officials to improve standardized test scores is widespread, a new IBOPE Zogby Interactive survey finds

In regard to the best way to evaluate teachers, 64% prefer an even mix of standardized test scores and classroom observation.


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