The minimum Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) required to gain a place in many teaching degrees fell this year, sliding by 20 points at one university, the latest admission data shows.
Offers were made to about 50,000 candidates at 9pm on Thursday night, as part of the main round offers for undergraduate study in NSW, along with the latest ATAR cut-offs for many degrees.
The mark needed to study primary education at the Australian Catholic University's Strathfield campus was 65.15, a significant drop from 86 last year. Most of the university's secondary teaching degrees also fell by more than 10 points to about 60.
Under the O'Farrell government's new teaching benchmarks to be implemented next year, school leavers will have to score a minimum of Band 5, or 80 per cent, in at least three of their HSC subjects, including English, to study teaching. The strict requirements are likely to be a barrier for students with an ATAR below 70.
A spokesman for Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the decline in the ATAR cut-offs was concerning because an ATAR was ''an important indicator of a candidate's academic aptitude, which is a vital element of a successful teacher''.
But Claire Wyatt-Smith, executive dean in the faculty of education at ACU, said ATAR cut-offs were an indication of supply and demand for a course, and that an individual's ATAR was no indication of how he or she would perform at university or in the workplace.
''ACU has increased the number of offers to give more students the opportunity to undertake tertiary study,'' Professor Wyatt-Smith said, adding that offers for the Strathfield campus had increased by almost 28 per cent. ''We want our students to be judged on their successful completion of an award, not on their ATAR upon entry.''
When added to offers already made in early rounds, almost 75,000 offers have been made compared with 72,000 last year.
The highest cut-off this year was 99.95 for the Bachelor of Health Science/Master of Physiotherapy degree at the University of Western Sydney. Medicine courses at various universities are not listed because they include additional entrance criteria - such as an exam and interview. Other highly competitive courses included combined law degrees at the University of Sydney and the University of NSW, both with cut-offs of 99.70.
ATAR cut-offs also fell for several communication courses, including the University of Technology, Sydney, the University of Sydney and the University of Newcastle.
Many of the cut-offs that jumped this year came from UNSW, after the university implemented a minimum admission rank of 80.
University Admissions Centre director of information services Kim Paino said cut-offs were not a reflection of the difficulty of the course or the aptitude required by students to complete a course: ''Where you see changes, it's either the university suddenly has a lot more places in that course or there are way more applicants than there are ever going to be places available.''
The University of Western Sydney made the most offers in NSW this year, adding 5855 to the 6165 it made in earlier rounds.
Applicants have until midnight on Thursday to change preferences for the next round of offers on January 30.