“Come One, Come All”: The Question of Open Entry in Enabling Programs
A major pathway for non-traditional students to access higher education in Australia is via “enabling programs”, tertiary preparation programs which allow students lacking the usual entry qualifications to gain them while preparing for success within higher education. There is an important division within such programs between “open entry” programs which allow enrolment regardless of prior academic qualifications and those which restrict entry on the basis of a range of academic criteria.
Open entry is a widening participation strategy, aiming to attract students who might not otherwise attempt higher education. This strategy has a long and successful history in Australia. However, recent research suggests that the putative benefits of attracting a wider range of non-traditional students via open entry may have a complementary cost in terms of lower student retention with the associated costs for students, institutions and the public purse. Whether open or restrictive entry to enabling programs is the more effective strategy for pursuing widening participation in Australia is an increasingly urgent question that needs to be answered.
This chapter offers a view of the open entry ‘landscape’ at issue in this debate, considering such aspects as the function of program entry requirements, the oft-quoted tension between student achievement and academic standards, the challenges of supporting non-traditional students in what are to them unfamiliar academic environments and the emergence of the need for ‘multiple discourses’ in response to the standard ‘deficit discourse’.
KeywordsStudent attrition Widening participation Open entry Open admission Enabling programs Access to education Equity in higher education
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