Admissions project rewards specialist maths skills

The University of Adelaide will make about 100 offers to Year 12 students for study into engineering, computer and mathematical sciences degrees for 2019, as part of a pilot project that will place the focus on specialist mathematics skills among students.

Working closely with four South Australian secondary schools on the pilot admissions project, the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences will make unconditional offers to students in Year 12 who are currently achieving at an acceptable standard in their specialist maths and physics studies.

The offers will bypass the need for an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank), focusing instead on proficiency on specialist mathematics.

“We know that specialist maths skills are critical to the success of our students in STEM fields, and we hear from industry that these skills are highly sought after in STEM-based careers,” says the Executive Dean of the Faculty, Professor Anton Middelberg.

“With mathematics being so critical to the future prosperity of our state and the nation, we believe something should be done to encourage students with the aptitude for studying maths to pursue this field at the highest level.”

The University’s Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences is proactively responding to the national agenda for more students to study high-level mathematics to prepare them for STEM degrees. The Faculty has recently made specialist mathematics a prerequisite for all Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degrees.

“Anecdotally, we have heard from many schools that students often make Year 12 subject choices based around boosting their ATAR, instead of what they are passionate about or what will serve them well at university,” Professor Middelberg says.

“By bypassing the ATAR in this pilot admissions project, we hope to place the emphasis firmly on the level of mathematics that we believe will serve our students well, both now and into the future.”

The four secondary schools involved in the pilot project are: Adelaide High School, St Peter’s College, Trinity College, and University Senior College.

In collaboration with the University of Adelaide, the schools will identify Year 12 specialist maths and physics students who are achieving at the right standard to be successful in university-level studies in engineering, computer and mathematical sciences.

These students will be made an unconditional offer to study in one of these degrees at the University from 2019. They will still need to apply for their degree through the normal SATAC (South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre) process, even though an ATAR will not be required.

If successful, the pilot project will be considered for expansion to schools right across the state.

“This is about creating better pathways into university that are more meaningful than the ATAR,” Professor Middelberg says.

“Ultimately, our aim is to have an improved admissions system that will benefit students at university and in their careers. We hope this will lead to brighter outcomes for industry, and innovation in South Australia and the nation.”

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