While students applying to study for a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) at the University of NSW were required to achieve an ATAR ranking of at least 91 to be accepted on the course this year, there are many more universities - Griffith, Western Sydney, Southern Queensland and Canberra for example - offering IT positions to students with a much lower ATAR or equivalent of around 65.
The University of Ballarat, which offers a range of ICT courses - some in association with IBM, where graduates are guaranteed a placement with the computer company after graduating - has a 2012 ATAR cut-off of just 45.55.
Although a report in The Australian newspaper last week cited Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) data ATAR stating Ballarat's IT student cut-off was 40.75 a spokeswoman in Ballarat's School of IT said that figure was not correct, claiming that the ATAR cut-off for information technology was in fact 45.55 in 2012, although she acknowledged that was 'still relatively quite low.' She claimed that the ATAR ranking required to study IT (professional practice) which is the course conducted in association with IBM was higher although declined to provide the figure.
To set these figures in context, ATARs are ranked measures which pit high school students who have completed their final year of school and final exams against their peer group who all entered Year 7 together. (It is an extremely arcane system - but one which most universities accept as the yardstick against which they select students).
So under the ATAR system 59.25 per cent of all 17-18 year olds would nominally be smarter than someone with an ATAR of 40.75.
It appears that at least part of the reason for the sudden plunge in ATARs in some universities arises from a push to increase the overall number of undergraduates, both to respond to the recently changed Government framework regarding caps and quotas, and also to offset the dwindling number of international students applying for places in local universities.
Professor Janet Verbyla, president of ACDICT (Australian Council of Deans of ICT) and the dean and pro vice chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland explained; 'It used to be that the Government gave quotas on different disciplines. Now they have taken the caps and quotas off - not for medicine or all courses - but most.
'The caps used to mean that if you were over-enrolled then the university would not get any funds for those students. They have been softening that in recent years so that the funding now goes with the student.
'Now we can take students in for any bachelor degree. If the university has a big demand in one area they can enrol as many as they like.'
But what if there isn't much demand for enrolments - like in IT where demand has been dropping off over the last decade?