Home | Industry & Research | Podcast: Dr Sara James – The ATAR issue and factors that influence course decisions

Podcast: Dr Sara James – The ATAR issue and factors that influence course decisions

Dr Sara James is a lecturer and cultural sociologist at La Trobe University in Melbourne and has completed research on the factors that influence students’ degree and course choices. As James’ work has found, one of the key factors influencing course choices are the opinions of families and friends.

James is also interested in the changing nature of work in the future, leading to a new age of automation, lifelong learning and “micro-accreditation” through short courses offered by providers like LinkedIn Learning.

For James, ATAR discourages students from enrolling in subjects they really enjoy or are good at. Instead, students are encouraged to “maximise their ATAR” – or in other words – “spend their score” by securing a high-paying job in the future.

But as anecdotal and research findings suggest, ATAR-driven choices often lead to students pulling out of courses or switching over to ones they find more interesting or are more suited to. This podcast is particularly timely given NSW’s decision to overhaul ATAR over concerns from stressed out parents and the merits of the score.

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