At the University of Western Sydney, the ATAR cut-off for the Bachelor of ICT at the Penrith Campus this year was 65.10 a little lower than the cut-off for 2012. Since 2009 the university as part of its bid to grow student numbers and become the 'accessible university' has increased its ICT undergraduate headcount by 50 per cent to 1,000 students over three campuses
Certainly the University's reputation for accessibility is growing - largely due to the ATAR bonus schemes which apply at UWS.
Because of those schemes a student who lives in Western Sydney and gets a Band Four or higher in their Standard English exam would only need a ranking of 55.10 to achieve an effective ATAR of 65.10 and get in. Just by dint of where they live they would automatically collect five bonus points on their ATAR when applying to UWS through UAC under the Regional Bonus Points scheme and a further five bonus ATAR marks for their English result.
So even the ATAR results can be a little rubbery when trying to compare apples with apples.
According to Jonathon Tapson, deputy dean of the school of computing, engineering and mathematics UWS numbers have increased by about 5 per cent this year. 'In a regular year that would be significant, but it's hard to tell this year because some people have gone a little bit crazy,' said Professor Tapson, referring to the abolition of caps and quotas across the university system.
For some courses at the University of Technology in Sydney the ATAR requirements actually rose in 2012, according to Timothy Aubrey, associate dean of teaching and learning in the Faculty of Engineering and IT. Dr Aubrey said that ATAR requirements for the Bachelor of Science (IT) and Bachelor of Science (games) had each risen two points to 85 and 91 respectively this year.
He said that the university had made 352 offers this year, and was for the first time offering a mid year IT intake.
'There is not usually one in IT. The university wants to take on more students, I think it's partly in response to the decrease in post graduate international students,' he said.
As to the trends for ATARs to drop in some other universities Dr Aubrey said he was; 'Concerned that the lower level ones will struggle. There is a correlation between ATARs and success.'
He added that less able students might find it hard to get a job on graduating, especially as more and more low level IT roles were offshored. 'Time will show if people get a job,' he added.
Prof Tapson said that exit interviews with UWS ICT graduates showed that last year 83.3 per cent of students left the university with jobs to go to, while the remainder went onto further study. He said that he did not expect ATAR cut-offs would be lowered next year, adding that although ATARs were not a measure of all of a candidate's potential, taking a candidate with an ATAR of 45 through to graduation would likely prove 'very challenging.'
Prof Verbyla was not so sure, saying that some universities were set up to 'deal with students who don't have a very high ATAR.' She also stressed that ATARs were a limited measure of capability, and that a student who attended a traditional school and achieved an ATAR of 45, could in the right setting achieve just as much as a student who had been 'hot-housed' to achieve an ATAR in the 80s.
'It doesn't tell you anything in my opinion,' she said.