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You are reading: Pathways to performance: an examination of entry pathway and first-year university results

Mark R. Diamond and Angela O’Brien-Malone

Published in Asia Pacific Journal of Education
January 2018


Although diversity at universities has increased dramatically over the past 150 years, many groups are still under-represented relative to their proportion in the general population. Initiatives to improve diversity have included the increased use of entry pathways other than direct admission from secondary school. As admissions via these alternative entry routes have increased, concerns have grown that alternative-entry students are not well prepared for university study. Here, we describe the outcomes for students entering university via one alternative entry pathway and compare them with those of students entering from secondary school. We used quantile regression with restricted cubic splines to examine the relationship between secondary school performance (quantified by the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank; ATAR), pathway of entry to university, and performance during first year university. Entry pathway significantly affects the conditional distribution of first-year marks. Outstanding performance is largely confined to students entering university from secondary school (Year 12 entry), rather than from an institution for technical and further education (TAFE). Concomitantly, for any given ATAR, the risk of failure is higher amongst Year 12 entry students than among TAFE entry students. The results have substantial implications for changes in admission criteria and for the public funding of universities.

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