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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org RESEARCH 47 to undergraduate study. For students who may have come to a Certificate IV course through a ‘lower-level’ English course, and perhaps less success in such a subject in junior secondary years, this appears to be an issue for their transition to further studies. It’s worth looking at the success these students are experiencing from Certificate IV backgrounds as they move towards university studies. In an analysis of the students who entered the Fremantle campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia in 2010, using a Certificate IV to meet minimum entry requirements, the results show that this pathway has some significant limitations. Of the students who entered in 2010, 26 per cent have either withdrawn or been ‘terminated’ in their university course based on their academic performance. A further 12 per cent are making poor academic progress; these students are failing units, and experiencing real difficulty with the academic literacy demands of undergraduate study. Meanwhile, 17 per cent are making satisfactory progress. This means that they have failed at least one unit of course work during their first year but at the same time are doing reasonably well across a number of other units. Mind you, 45 per cent of the students who entered in 2010 with a Certificate IV background are making solid academic progress and have not failed any units within their first year of studies. This is a commendable outcome and shows that for some students, Certificate IV can indeed be a suitable pathway for university success. The reality that 55 per cent of students may be struggling to achieve the necessary standard is, however, a cause of concern. In response to the analysis of Certificate IV entrants over 2008, 2009 and 2010, the University of Notre Dame Australia from first semester, 2011, has implemented a conditional course entry requirement for Certificate IV pathway entrants, to support their progress. Students complete a week- long orientation program prior to course commencement, focused on essay writing and critical reading skills, to enhance their skills, prior to completing their 13-week first-semester discipline-specific literacy unit. The university is now tracking the first intake of students to have completed this program to ascertain if it assists in their undergraduate success. There are many other pathways to university for students who do not follow the standard route of obtaining their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, used by institutions to rank and select school leavers for admission to tertiary courses. It may be that for at least some students, bridging and enabling courses achieve better outcomes. It may well be that completing a Certificate IV, followed by a university bridging course, is another option. While it might appear to take longer to follow a Certificate IV with a bridging course, for students who fail units, or drop- out, this time may be a good investment, as many bridging courses are fee-free. The combination of a Certificate IV and a bridging course may provide the discipline and academic literacy necessary for such students to be very successful within their undergraduate studies. Failure at university is an expensive and personally deflating experience, and underprepared entrants will experience difficulties, and are far more likely to fail. When secondary schools counsel Year 10 students, it’s imperative that they do not sell a Certificate IV pathway as an easy option, either for themselves or their students, for university entrance. As this research shows, meeting university entrance requirements, and being successful at university study, are markedly different. Associate Professor Keith McNaught is Director of the Academic Enabling and Support Centre at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle.