A Case Study of the University Admissions Index As a Predictor of University Performance among Science Students in Australia
Most universities in Australia use the University Admissions Index (UAI) as their main entrance requirement for prospective students. UAI is a score that ranges between 0 and 100. It provides a ranking of overall academic performance during the last two years of secondary school. It is synonymous with the statistical concept of percentiles and allows comparison of academic ability across different disciplines and subjects. UAI cutoff scores for university entrance can vary considerably between institutions and courses. In most cases, the cutoff value reflects the popularity of a course rather than its degree of difficulty. For example, at Macquarie University in 2008, a B. Science with B. Laws had a UAI cutoff of 95.00 compared with 72.00 for B. Science with a Diploma of Education; whereas B. Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics required an entry score of only 75.00. Students wishing to receive offers into popular courses are thus under enormous pressure to perform at high academic levels during their final years of school and many chose to postpone further study because they are burnt out. This paper investigates the assumption that UAI is an appropriate index by which to admit students to university to study in the sciences. We used data from the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of Canberra, which utilises a broad range of UAI entry scores from as low as 60.00. We compared student performance in several first year units with UAI and with a variety of factors such as gender, age, schooling, and assessment type. The results show that UAI is not related to overall performance for a variety of units covering biology, chemistry and statistics and is therefore a poor indicator of the academic ability of potential university students. This result generally holds for both genders and across assessment types.
Keywords: University Admissions Index, UAI, Factors Influencing Performance in Tertiary Science
Dr. Margi Böhm
Senior Lecturer, Director of the Science Resource Center, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra
Deputy Director of the Science Resource Centre, Faculty of Applied Science, University of Canberra