The Adaptation of Tertiary Admissions Practices to Growth and Diversity
The expansion of higher education places adaptive pressure on institutional and policy frameworks that were originally designed at times of lower levels of participation. This adaptive pressure is evident in changes to admission and selection practices, and has become more acute with the introduction of demand driven funding for undergraduate Commonwealth supported places. Universities seeking to optimise their market share in line with their values and strategic objectives are increasingly utilising direct admissions rather than historically dominant state centralised admissions processes. Direct entry pathways are also being utilised by some institutions as a means of increasing their share of disadvantaged students in particular. Both centralised and direct admissions pathways are also drawing on contextual data – such as the geo-demographic background of the applicant, school attended, perceived academic potential, or volunteer and community service – in the assessment process (Harvey 2014). The growth and complexity of university admissions practices raises two key questions. First, what impact is rising complexity in admissions practices having on student decision-making, with particular emphasis on students from disadvantaged backgrounds? And, second, how are universities and state-based tertiary admissions centres (TACs) responding to the challenges associated with rising student participation, diversity and mobility, as well as complexity in admissions practice?