University admissions in Australia will soon come under the scrutiny of a high level expert panel. This follows reports of large scale irregularities in university admissions. Many Australian universities are reportedly admitting under-qualified candidates to various courses.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham is finalising a top education panel that will go into the burning issues in university admissions. A recent investigative report by Fairfax Media had revealed that students with lower ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) were making it to elite university courses in big numbers.

Birmingham’s panel will include Peter Shergold, the former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and four others. Most prominent among them will be Greg Craven,vice-chancellor of  the Australian Catholic University.

Media reports had revealed that the average ATAR of students in many engineering programs are 20 points down the cut-off. The Higher Education Standards Panel will have the mandate to examine admission parameters options for hiking transparency.

“I want the panel to explore how to ensure incoming students are ‘uni-ready’,” said minister Birmingham.

“That means having a clear understanding of what they need to do to get into their course of choice and realising what will be expected of them through their further study,” he said.

Media reports have cited many cases of questionable admissions under diluted grades. A university in NSW was admitting students for law degree with ATAR far below the prescribed cut-off. Some Sydney Universities are admitting 60 percent of their students with a lower public entry cut-off, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

Admission scam was rampant in many regional universities. The University of Wollongong has 70 percent of its students in business, law and engineering courses coming from the sub-ATAR lists. Already there is a demand by many university vice-chancellors to scrap the ATAR admissions process. They call it inefficient and unfair.

Academics and businesses are also worried about the impact of underqualified graduates joining the workforce. Meanwhile, reports said many financially strained students are turning to “sugar daddy” websites. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, is a popular sugar daddy website. It has many rich benefactors. Many Australian students are signing up for the website. Such websites offer “mutually beneficial relationships.” But students are keen to get sponsors who can foot their higher education bill.