Australian Catholic University has announced that starting in 2009 it will base its selection of students on their involvement in cultural, sporting and religious activities including volunteering as well as on academic performance.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports ACU will guarantee places to students before they receive their Higher School Certificate results if they can demonstrate a history of community work.
The unorthodox selection procedure follows a Macquarie University initiative that will require all undergraduate students to participate in volunteer work before they graduate.
ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven told the paper that the program sent a signal to students about the type of people the university wanted and a signal to employers that it was turning out well rounded graduates.
"If you have a profession that requires a particularly good personality … how are marks exactly going to determine that?" Professor Craven said. "A good teacher has to be a good communicator, a good teacher has to be patient, and a good teacher has to care about their students.
"Which of those are going to be tested in the HSC?"
However, Lynne Dalton, the chief executive of the Centre for Volunteering, said she welcomed the sentiment to get students involved in volunteer work but those not genuinely interested were more a burden than a help.
"The poor not-for-profits are going to have these thousands of students wanting to fulfil their obligations and not having the resources to manage all these people," she said. "It takes a lot of time to manage volunteers.
"People just think you put a volunteer in a corner and give them their stuff and that's it."
Stuart Wheatley, 17, who has been a Scout at Turramurra since he was nine, said it was positive that universities were rewarding students' community work, but he did it for its own sake.
"We do a bit of everything," he said. "We do community programs, like we help out Lifeline with their annual book sale."
The Sydney Secondary College's Blackwattle Bay campus is negotiating with the University of Notre Dame Australia and Australian Catholic University to credit its students' community work.
Natasha Krnjaic, one of its year 12 students, created a volunteer program at the school that enables students to get bronze, silver or gold certificates according to hours of community work.
Professor Craven, who took up his position in February, is the latest vice-chancellor to have amended selection criteria.
Students chosen on good works (Sydney Morning Herald, 10/5/08)