As universities compete and strive to attract students, the most significant change in the last three years has been the expansion of the ‘early offer’ available to Year 12 students as a pathway into university. Secondary School Principals and Leadership Teams across the State have struggled to manage the growing expectations of students (who bank on an early offer into university before they begin or finish their HSC) as well as the well-founded criticism that universities are bypassing the one system set up to create a level playing field for university – the ATAR. At the end of the first week of the HSC in 2022, one university emailed Principals asking them to remind their students to check their early entries – the second English paper was barely over. As it turned out, most of these offers were unconditional and, at that point, with most of the exams still to go, the HSC and ATAR were no longer relevant.
For a young person this is a confusing time. They have been rightly led to believe the HSC is the end of their schooling – a rite of passage. On the surface, the broadening of pathways into university has opened doors to universities and taken some of the ‘heat’ out of the HSC for many students. However, when we look closely there are reasons to be concerned. In 2021, one third of students entering University did not use their ATAR, as the article from the SMH from January 2023 states, 43 000 early offers were made to students in 2022 before they sat their final examinations. 67,000 students sat the HSC in 2022.
The NSW HSC has served this State well and protecting it is something we must do. While Universities may have made some concessions for the 2023 year, settling on September releases with conditional rather than unconditional offers, it will be important that we do as much as possible to ensure the HSC remains a stronghold of our education system.