Getting Into Uni Without Doing The HSC’s Not The Only Special Treatment Elite Private Schoolkids Get
Good news for Ja'mies everywhere.
In welcome news for terrible humans everywhere, hard done-by rich people no longer have to worry about their idiot children not effortlessly being gifted the world on a platter anymore. Yesterday Fairfax reported that several students from Sydney’s elite Scots College private school were allowed to enrol in courses at the University of Sydney without completing the HSC, known to everyone else as “that thing I needed to complete in order to attend university”.
Under a pilot program available exclusively to Scots boys (which is how we refer to them, apparently), eight students with “predictive tertiary admissions ranks of between 55 and 70 per cent” — marks much too low to score a final ATAR required for almost all Sydney Uni courses, in other words — were allowed to complete a diploma last year that entitled them to enrol in a limited range of courses like liberal arts and science, health sciences and visual arts. Also a Diploma of Law, a course which was presumably included after one of the students pointed out that Father would be furious if he went into the humanities and threatened to bring him down here right now to straighten this out.
The diploma was first developed by the university for mature-age students who never sat the HSC, and who are charged $12,000 for the privilege– Scots principal Ian Lambert said the cost of the diploma was covered in student’s regular fees, but the amount Sydney Uni received in exchange for each of the diplomas it awarded to Scots boys has not yet been disclosed. Interestingly, mature-age students are expected to complete the diploma over a full year, while Scots boys were allowed to finish the same diploma in just 17 weeks. How the baby geniuses at Scots who can smash out a year-long course in four months are somehow unable to get an ATAR above 70 at one of the most well-resourced schools in the country remains a mystery.
This isn’t the first time Scots has been accused of throwing a yachtload of money around to get ahead in dodgy circumstances. In 2013 the school faced accusations it was buying sporting success by giving lucrative scholarships to promising athletes from other schools, a program that was resulting in unfair and potentially unsafe match-ups between Scots sporting teams and teams from rival schools. If you’re wondering how this school is able to buy literally anything it wants, you might not be surprised to learn that Scots has some of the highest school fees in the country, charging a massive $30,900 per student in annual tuition fees in 2013 as well as $6,000 for two term’s worth of accommodation at its Glengarry boarding house for Year Nine students. Scots raked in an incredible $46,199,327 in school fees and parent contributions in 2013, equalling more than $25,000 per student, meaning that some parents likely felt rather short-changed when their kids came home not completely covered in solid gold.
The level of expectation might explain how ‘mishaps’ like the 17-week diploma and the sporting scholarships can come about. Scots can only charge such high fees because of its reputation as an elite institution, a perception which might be undercut if parents start complaining that their kids can’t even get into an arts degree at Sydney Uni by themselves. Picking Scots for the trial diploma program over another school that couldn’t afford to gift its students $12,000 scholarships provides a pretty convenient solution for everyone involved — Sydney Uni makes a stack of money, Scots can boast to parents that its students have pathways to higher education that other schools don’t, and rich kids are guaranteed entry to one of Australia’s most prestigious unis without having to jump through the hoops like everyone else.
Fallout from the news has already begun, with NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli declaring this morning that “any scheme that gives some students an unfair advantage is unacceptable,” but what’s worth remembering at this point is how much taxpayer money a wealthy school like Scots collects. According to MySchool, Scots received a whopping $6,178,885 of funding from state and federal governments in 2013, which evens out at around $3,400 a student. Compared with the $46 million Scots can count on from tuition fees it’s a drop in the bucket, but for most schools that would be a pretty welcome amount of assistance, especially for public schools — which being, you know, public schools, rely far more heavily on the government for funding.
A Productivity Commission report released in January revealed that government spending on private schools over the last five years has increased faster than funding for public schools, a trend that’s even weirder when you remember that most wealthy countries don’t fund private schools at all. The Gonski reforms were meant to fix that disparity, until Ja’mie’s older brother Christopher Pyne became Education Minister and promptly gutted the funding needed to do it.
Even better, MySchool reckons that 76 per cent of Scots students rank in the top quarter of community socio-economic advantage, with only one per cent coming from the bottom quarter. One (That’s “1”, ie. “the smallest number”) is also the percentage of Scots boys who come from an Indigenous background. Considering public schools educate the vast majority of students from Indigenous or low socio-economic backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities, it’s very bloody unclear why each Scots boy needs $3,400 worth of taxpayer funding when his parents can literally buy him into university without the HSC anyway. If you just miss out on a course at Sydney Uni next year because a rich idiot bought his way into your spot, the thought that his rich idiot kids will likewise inherit an education’s worth of government-sponsored special treatment will undoubtedly soothe you while you’re waiting for Centrelink to kick in.