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New ANU Degree Designed Around ATAR PLUS System

The ANU Bachelor of Health Science will be introduced in 2018 and will use the ATAR Plus system to select students.

Students will be required to have achieved a 90 ATAR, plus fill out a supplementary form with questions addressing community engagement, and to provide documentation supporting their claims.

The associate dean of the School of Medicine, David Kramer, explains that, in selecting students, the School is looking for candidates with a certain set of attributes.

‘We are looking for young people that are focused not just on themselves, but focused on community and focused on society.

‘They are the type of people we want working as doctors and in health, so we want to give them the extra ability to get past the selection point,’ Kramer said.

The Bachelor of Health Science will not only foster science skills, but complement those with health science knowledge and the ability to make decisions.

The degree will be focused on developing skills to enable graduates to contribute to health in the broader sense, with potential employment outcomes including working to shape government health policy and assisting NGOs, as well as practicing medicine.

‘These students will then have the ability in their careers to be leaders in health policy within their profession,’ Kramer said.

The School of Medicine, which does not currently have an undergraduate program, intends to enrol 60 students in the course next year. Of these 60 spots, 15 will be reserved exclusively for rural and Indigenous students.

‘The School has a strong desire to have Indigenous students in the program.

‘Having Indigenous health leaders will lead to better health outcomes, and having Indigenous doctors in the clinics will lead to better outcomes’, explained Kramer, but ‘support structures are essential as these applicants may not have had the same educational advantages as other students.’

It is also a Commonwealth requirement that 27 per cent of students enrolled in postgraduate medicine have a rural background.

Kramer explains that this is because the Commonwealth Government is ‘responsible to the people of Australia in terms of fulfilling workforce needs, and for a very long time having doctors work in rural areas outside of major urban centres has been challenging.

‘A lot of general practitioners have been getting older, and there aren’t enough junior doctors to fill these places. So you can have communities that are unserved by healthcare and that is just not a good outcome’, he said.

The Bachelor of Health Science eventuated because The School of Medicine was struggling to enrol enough rural students in the Doctor of Medicine and Surgery (MChD).

‘You’re not going to get rural students from that [95 ATAR and above] population, especially not 3 out of 10.

‘With the bonus points, we think that an 85 as a base ATAR represents a very high-achieving rural student’, Kramer explained, in response to a question about the selection criteria for the Bachelor of Health Science.

Of the 60 students who will be enrolled in the degree, up to 30 could qualify for a direct pathway into MChD without sitting the GAMSAT. Of these 30 spots, 10 will be reserved for rural and Indigenous students.

For two years, students interested in this pathway will take two core subjects per semester, plus chemistry in their first year.

Offers for the pathway into MChD will be made after the second year, as Kramar believes they will have enough information on academic ability by then.

Admission will not be based on a straight GPA, however, but the best 14 out of 16 subjects from the two-year period.

‘We don’t want to cause issues with students where first two years are so intense that they are out of the game. They can have a bad subject’, Kramer explained.

Those who are accepted will then have the third year of their degree to do subjects of their choice without having to maintain a GPA.

‘If they get into the program then in the third year they get the freedom to do whatever they want to do. I am hoping they go study abroad or take on really difficult subjects just because they are interested.

‘It is a bit of a different philosophy, but it is a pathway,’ Kramer explained.

This philosophy is rooted in concerns about mental health issues and burnouts when studying medicine.

‘Postgraduate medicine is very challenging,’ Kramer explained, ‘and 18 – 20-year-olds are under pressure to do other things at the ANU and find themselves.’

Ultimately, Kramer hopes that the Bachelor of Health Science will offer a ‘continuity of support’ to give students the best chance of succeeding and excelling in their postgraduate ventures.