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Flinders uniTEST aims to provide greater access to university for students who would not otherwise be selected on the basis of Year 12 performance alone

 

DESCRIPTION
uniTEST is an aptitude test designed to assess students’ abilities and aptitude over the three core areas of quantitative, critical and verbal/plausible reasoning that underpin studies at university and are needed to be successful. Flinders University partners with secondary schools in the delivery of uniTEST, enabling greater opportunity to participate in higher education. Flinders uniTEST focuses primarily on the education and access needs of students from LSES and regional/rural backgrounds.

PARTNERS

  • Flinders University
  • public, Catholic and independent secondary schools (130 in 2011)
  • Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

OBJECTIVES
Flinders uniTEST aims to provide greater access to university for those students who would not otherwise be selected for university on the basis of Year 12 performance alone, and to increase opportunities for students from LSES backgrounds to participate in higher education.

In South Australia, 60 per cent of the population reside in areas classified in the lowest quartile of disadvantage, in comparison to the national average of 29.5 per cent. Additionally, 74 per cent of the population reside in Adelaide: the state lacks major regional centres and, by extension, lacks regional programs supporting students in realising their educational aspirations.

The uniTEST partnership with schools from across the state provides greater access to higher education for students who may not aspire to participate. The partnership demonstrates the university’s commitment to increasing opportunities for students from LSES and regional/rural backgrounds.

ACTIVITIES
uniTEST involves prospective university students sitting a 95 question aptitude test that determines understanding across three core focus areas including quantitative, verbal and plausible, and critical reasoning. uniTEST is delivered under examination conditions through the partner schools.

Flinders uniTEST recognises a student’s performance in both their Year 12 studies (60 per cent) and their performance in uniTEST (40 per cent). A combination of their scores, with a weighting to particular areas of uniTEST relevant to the course they are applying for, provides a new entrance rank into Flinders University.

uniTEST is provided at no cost and is undertaken with a ‘no disadvantage’ clause, so students who do not perform well can be considered for entry to university on the basis of their Year 12 performance, or other relevant pathways, alone.

In 2011, Flinders University piloted the program, extending an invitation to students and schools from South Australia, bordering locations of New South Wales and Victoria, and throughout the Northern Territory. The pilot saw 130 schools partner with Flinders in the provision of uniTEST to their Year 12 student cohorts.

More than 50 per cent of schools participating in uniTEST are deemed LSES by HEPPP criteria, supporting the concept that uniTEST is a key initiative to improve access to university from groups that have traditionally low participation rates in higher education. For the pilot period, 891 students participated in uniTEST to increase their potential of participating in higher education.

Initially uniTEST was delivered via a paper-based exam, however it is now delivered online, providing greater access to students from regional and rural locations and further streamlines the testing process.

OUTCOMES
Qualitative feedback from students and staff involved in Flinders uniTEST suggests the value of the initiative in providing greater opportunities to participate in higher education. Feedback from school leaders suggests the Flinders uniTEST is ‘valuable and innovative in assisting students gain entry to university.’

Since the pilot in 2011, Flinders uniTEST has partnered with approximately 130 schools annually, administering the test to 3,987 Year 12 students across Australia. Flinders uniTEST has provided an opportunity to participate in higher education for more than 350 students based either on their combined ATAR/uniTEST result or on their performance in uniTEST alone. Students admitted to Flinders University through the 2011 pilot have an average performance of 4.89 Grade Point Average (GPA) across their studies and a 91 per cent retention rate.

PARTNERSHIP ‘WORKING’
In the development of partnerships with schools for the delivery of Flinders uniTEST, educators and school leaders were consulted to determine the aspirations of the school community relating to higher education, and the aspirations of their students.

The partnerships for uniTEST required minimal input from educators other than administering the test at the school under examination conditions. A conscious decision was made to minimise the requirements of schools, acknowledging the pressures for educators and students prior to Year 12 examinations.

No financial burden was placed on schools other than through the provision of invigilators for the test, often not required as many schools administered the test during class time. This minimal financial commitment further increased the demand from schools to partner with Flinders in the program.

A majority of schools embraced the opportunity to partner with Flinders University in the delivery of a program that could potentially increase their students’ access to university. Schools in LSES metropolitan areas and in regional and rural locations particularly embraced the partnership opportunity. However, some schools suggested that their students would not need uniTEST or that the responsibility for such an initiative should lie solely with the university.

The key components attributing to the success of the partnerships were the retained focus on improving access and opportunity for student cohorts to participate in higher education, reduced administrative and financial burdens, and clear expectations relating to uniTEST delivery.

FUTURE ACTIVITIES
ACER progressively reviews uniTEST, including changes to test questions and regular enhancements to online delivery. Online testing continues to prove popular with partner schools due to the ease in administering the test.

Flinders University continuously reviews the course offerings eligible for admission via uniTEST to further enable greater access and opportunity for all students. Progressive review is also undertaken to ensure the weightings of uniTEST areas are relevant to course offerings and are providing sound baselines for student selection. The expanded and alternate use of uniTEST through Flinders University provides a baseline to consider further research into the efficacy of aptitude testing for university admission.

uniTEST and Year 12 scores play a complementary role in the selection process and the two in combination provide a more powerful means of predicting first-year performance than either measure on its own.” – research undertaken by ACER (2010).

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This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.