Round 1 offers of places in tertiary courses were delivered to many eager Victorians last week, with more than 50,000 prospective undergraduate students being accepted into their top selection.
Figures released by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC), indicated Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne is one of the most popular courses, with 8,505 applications in 2017. Bachelor of Arts courses received a total of 7,093 applications.
VTAC also revealed that the most popular fields were society and culture, health, and architecture and building which saw an increase in applications from previous years.
Following the Round 1 offers, the Victorian Government announced that those wanting to pursue a career in teaching will now need to have a minimum Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of at least 65, increasing to 70 in 2019.
The increase is an effort to ensure that education students in Victoria come from the top 30 per cent of Year 12 graduates.
“We always said we wanted to raise the bar for those wanting to become a teacher to ensure we keep lifting standards in our classrooms,” Education
Minister James Merlino said.
“We’re building the Education State, investing in our education and training systems so Victorians can get the skills they need for the jobs and futures they want.”
Professor Sophie Arkoudis, Associate Director at the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education said such a move is only part of the picture to ensure quality in teaching.
“Entry requirements on their own measure student ability to undertake courses, but what is important is also the nature of their teaching and learning experience within their university studies that also ensure quality,” she said.
But when it comes to education applications and enrolments, recent figures indicate declines in some instances: while applications for undergraduate teaching courses have remained steady, applications for graduate teaching courses have dropped sharply over the last three years.
VTAC issued 641 graduate entry teaching Round 1 offers last week, compared to 1,370 last year.
“The increased casualisation of the teaching workforce over the past 10 years would seem to not be a great incentive for VCE students to select teaching,” Professor Arkoudis said.
Teaching contracts are increasingly being offered as casual placements, meaning applicants may only be employed for a short time and will not receive holiday pay.
Professor Arkoudis said this provides limited security for people to plan for the future and she believes this lack of secure employment may influence a drop in applications.
Professor Stephen Dinham from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education said that there are other issues currently affecting education applications such as an oversupply of primary teachers and the discontinuance of a one-year postgraduate diploma.
“The regulations have changed: instead of being able to do a one-year Diploma of Teaching, they now have to do a two-year Masters. This has meant that the HECS debt has doubled,” Professor Dinham said.
“You’re also missing out on a year of income and it’s quite a disincentive if you want to do a Master of teaching.
“In Victoria you’ve got a situation where people begin on contacts or part-time work and all of these things are disincentives.”
But Professor Dinham is in favour of the teaching ATAR increase, saying that students who receive an ATAR of 80 or 90 who see a lower ATAR for a course might not be enthusiastic to select that course.
“. . . all of this is about raising standards and getting the right people and I think in the long-term it will lead to a higher status profession.”
Round 2 offers for graduate-entry teaching programs were released 19 January and offers for all other university and TAFE courses will be released 2 February.
For more information about VTAC and ATAR score information, visit vtac.edu.au
this article was initially published in print and online at Neos Kosmos.