The recent Mitchell Institute report on ATAR created an impression that ATAR is no longer widely used as a basis of admission to university. Based on figure 3 in their report, it said that only a quarter of students are admitted to undergraduate courses based on their ATAR.
That figure is correct in itself, but easily misinterpreted.The standard university practice is to admit students based on their most recent relevant academic results. For many applicants, their most recent relevant academic result is not Year 12, but previous university studies or vocational education. These applicants have been trending up as a share of all newly admitted students.
For school leavers, their Year 12 results are generally still their most recent relevant academic results. For them, ATAR is used not in one-quarter of cases, but three-quarters, as the chart below shows.
For other commencing students using previous higher education as their basis of admission, their ATAR is no longer their most recent relevant academic result. But often it was used to admit them to the university in the first place.
The chart below shows that when we take 2016 commencing students back to their original admission to university, 46 per cent were first enrolled based on school education with a recorded ATAR. For the under-25 year olds, 56 per cent were admitted based on their school education with an ATAR.
So while it is true, and increasingly true, that low-ATAR students can find other routes into university, ATAR is still the major selection tool for young people.
Source: Department of Education and Training, Higher education data collection