It's hard to imagine this senior university academic, head of first year curriculum and acclaimed author could have failed Year 12. But Dr John Weldon is living proof that a moment in time does not define him, nor stop him or anyone else from achieving great professional success.

Here he speaks passionately from his unique perspective, about the importance of education for everyone – regardless of an ATAR score – and how VU is making that happen.

Dr John Weldon hasn’t let this one obstacle get in his way.

Why we are all more than our ATAR

I failed Year 12, yet here I am now, Head of First Year Curriculum at Victoria University. The philosophy at VU is to help students into education and get the most out of it.

Should universities simply slam the door shut and disenfranchise people with untapped potential? Many do, and some don’t understand or appreciate our philosophy.

We are giving students the opportunity to find out if university is for them, if that course is for them, if they want to move to something different here or at our Polytechnic, or if they think, 'I’m not ready now, but I might come back for Block 3, or mid year, or next year'.

There are students who realise, 'yes, this is for me, and I now understand what education is about and where it can take me'. And we have proudly brought them in and given them that chance to find out.

We have broken away from the traditional broadcast model of other Australian universities where academics stand on a pulpit and tell you what to do.

We take students on a journey with us. Success for us is different to the old universities and it’s incredibly rewarding. Ours is not the same old view of what a university is.

We give every first-year student the maximum chance of mastering their units and performing well. Studying a single unit for four weeks with the VU Block Model, being assessed and progressing to the next unit is perfect for students of every ability. They are all getting immediate feedback, knowing after just four weeks exactly how they’re tracking.

Throughout the semester, we have milestones that reward success and help identify and address any problems much earlier. When you mix four units over a 12 or 16-week period at the old universities, you don’t have benchmarks along the way. You are just hit with a rush of exams at the end – and a harsh reality check.

Our way of teaching allows students to miss up to four weeks yet only miss one unit. A month-long break at the old universities due to illness, holidaying or a short-term work contract can wipe out all four units in that semester and be totally disheartening.

We are more flexible, and more in tune with the 21st century lifestyle and workstyle.

Fans and snipers alike might call us a Netflix university. An old university is the TV station of yesteryear that dictated you would watch a show like Game of Thrones on Sunday night at 8.30pm – but we give our students the freedom to choose to say yes or to say, 'no, I’m going to watch 11 episodes on Saturday, starting at three in the morning'!

We are the university that says, you can do more of that. We’re about planning around you rather than planning you around us.

We’re modern, 21st century and user-driven, not producer-driven. We are flexible, fitting around your lifestyle and focused on the student, not focused on a timetable. And that's the future of education.

John Weldon is senior lecturer, author, freelance writer and award-winning media relations professional.
Find John on Twitter or The Conversation.

A portrait of the author 'back in the day'.

Find out more

During the VTAC change of preference period from now until 4 January 2021, the VU team is here for you with 1:1 consultations and live chat. We are also holding our virtual event on 31 December, 11am–1pm. Register now to attend.

We're here to help with advice on all your study options that can lead to your dream course.

Find out more about VU's Block Model of teaching.