Flip-flop­ping flunkers told to get real

Stu­dents ‘ill-pre­pared for ter­tiary life’

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - NATASHA BITA EX­CLU­SIVE

QUEENS­LAND school leavers are strug­gling to per­form at a ter­tiary level be­cause they are un­der­pre­pared for uni­ver­sity life and have un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions about what it will en­tail, ac­cord­ing to a top uni­ver­sity.

Boys are more likely to fail, flunk­ing sub­jects and rack­ing up HECS debts as they chop and change de­grees, the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land has warned.

UQ says stu­dents need bet­ter ad­vice in high school about what they should study to get into uni­ver­sity, how much it will cost them, and what uni­ver­sity life will be like.

“It might be help­ful if stu­dents could be bet­ter ad­vised in high school about the costs of fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion and the need to be re­al­is­tic about their pre­pared­ness for uni­ver­sity study and pro­gram se­lec­tion,’’ the uni­ver­sity told a fed­eral par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the school-to-work tran­si­tion.

“It may also be help­ful for high school stu­dents to have re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions about higher ed­u­ca­tion and the dif­fer­ences to sec­ondary school, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to greater in­de­pen­dence and re­spon­si­bil­ity, and be­ing a self­di­rected learner.

“Our ex­pe­ri­ence is that many stu­dents strug­gle to make this tran­si­tion.’’

UQ told the in­quiry it had a “large pro­por­tion of male stu­dents who fail cour­ses – and con­tinue to do so over ad­di­tional years of study – un­til they de­cide to leave … hav­ing ac­crued course debts for failed cour­ses’’. “These stu­dents also of­ten change their pro­gram of study,’’ the sub­mis­sion states.

UQ data pro­vided to The Sun­day Mail shows that on av­er­age, male stu­dents failed 12.9 per cent of their sub­jects last year, while fe­male stu­dents failed 8.7 per cent.

Stu­dents can re­peat failed sub­jects but they ac­crue ex­tra debt through the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s HECS-HELP loans scheme be­cause they are charged tu­ition fees each time.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chan­cel­lor (Aca­demic) Joanne Wright said girls tended to be more ma­ture than boys be­gin­ning uni­ver­sity at the age of 17 or 18.

“We know males are less ma­ture at that age and are big­ger risk-tak­ers,” she said.

“It could be they take on a sub­ject and don’t re­ally ap­ply them­selves.

“In­cor­rect pro­gram choice fea­tures quite promi­nently, and that would sug­gest pos­si­bly some de­gree of im­ma­tu­rity.’’

Pro­fes­sor Wright said fe­males passed more uni­ver­sity sub­jects, even when both gen­ders achieved the same OP rank in high school.

She said too many teach­ers and par­ents en­cour­aged stu­dents to choose “easy’’ sub­jects at high school.

“We could be los­ing im­mense tal­ent just be­cause a teacher or par­ent isn’t pre­pared to have a hard con­ver­sa­tion with their child,’’ she said.

Hugh Lil­ley, 24, has al­most com­pleted a Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness Man­age­ment at UQ and said that it took him longer than ex­pected to dis­cover what he wanted to study.

The de­gree is his third af­ter he dropped out of a Bach­e­lor of Arts and a Bach­e­lor of Jour­nal­ism.

“I was just so young, quite im­ma­ture, not ex­actly think­ing con­struc­tively about what I should be do­ing,’’ Mr Lil­ley said.

IT COULD BE THEY TAKE ON A SUB­JECT AND DON’T RE­ALLY AP­PLY THEM­SELVES JOANNE WRIGHT

THIRD DE­GREE: Hugh Lil­ley em­barked on sev­eral cour­ses be­fore study­ing busi­ness. Pic­ture: AAP/ Josh Won­ing

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