Hello and welcome to Science Alliance for 2016.

1 March 2016

As the University's Mathematics and Science Ambassador, I've had great fun hitting the ground running this year and would like to share a couple of those experiences.

Firstly, we recently had the annual welcome for new students to the Faculty of Science. Once again Eastern Avenue lecture theatre was jam-packed, standing room only, as over 600 bright-eyed young science lovers contemplated what lay ahead for them.

The mixture of excitement and mild fear is palpable on days like this, as students from all manner of backgrounds and interests prepare to embark upon their science studies at the University of Sydney.

A particular highlight is welcoming the most highly credentialed of these debutants to the science Talented Student Program, which sees these science student newbies doing research projects as early as first semester. The Talented Student Program is a world class initiative that takes pride of place in our Faculty.

Another highlight of February for me was addressing a development day for high school careers advisers and speaking in support of the University's new policy on mathematics prerequisites. More details can be found here and here.

In brief, from 2019 students enrolling in a host of science and related degrees at the University of Sydney will have to have completed at least 2 Unit Mathematics in the HSC or a similar calculus based mathematics course. They will no longer be able to rely on their ATAR alone and just general mathematics or no mathematics at all. Many science and engineering students already come to university with higher level maths skills gained through studying HSC Mathematics Extension 1 or 2, so the new rule will help by lifting everyone to a shared basic standard.

This change is a strong statement by the University and the right one for us to make. These degrees are fantastic degrees and prepare students for vital careers in this digital century, but they do require a strong grasp of calculus level mathematics. To enroll a student who doesn't have this knowledge, is setting them up for a very difficult and possibly unsuccessful first year at university, and this is not fair to anyone - the student, their family, and the Faculty's academic and support staff.

By drawing a line in the sand on this issue, the University is unapologetically affirming the quality of the degrees we offer and making it clear what we expect students to bring if they are to flourish here.

As I have said many times before, mathematicians will build this century. This is the age of big data analysts, coders, app designers, algorithm developers and the like. With this policy, the University of Sydney becomes an even more exciting place to be and a key part of this future.

I hope your year has gotten off to a great start!