This case study responds to the debate over

‘toxic teachers’, tertiary entry ranking and

access to university. Implications for federal

and state policy are proposed. For 22 years

Avondale College of Higher Education has been

operating a tertiary pathway course designed

to widen access to higher education for nontraditional

applicants. The course, now known

as the Diploma of General Studies [DGS], has

been accredited as a 2-year higher education

sector diploma since 1995. Thus far, just over

1000 students have spent at least one semester

in the diploma. Not one has opted to complete

the diploma; instead students use it as a

pathway to a higher award, mostly Avondale

bachelor degrees in education, nursing, arts,

theology, business and occasionally science.

To date, 300 former pathway students have

completed an Avondale degree, and a further

250 are currently enrolled. DGS students

commence with Year 12 ranks (UAI, ENTER,

TER, now ATAR) ranging from 30 or less to

around 60; however, many have no rank. For

those who complete an Avondale degree, there

is no correlation between rank and average

college grade. Those who engage with the

academic program do well, regardless of their

entry rank; and those who fail to engage do

poorly, regardless of their entry rank. A low

Year 12 rank does not tell an applicant’s whole

story. A semester in the DGS pathway course

can open a new world of academic opportunity.

Some DGS students have gone on to complete

post-graduate study. Teachers can confidently

advise Year 12 students with potential, but

low tertiary ranking, to consider the option of

alternative pathways to tertiary studies as these

can provide a positive opportunity to achieve

their aspirations.

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