The University of New South Wales introduced interviews for undergraduate admissions in 2006. This was one of several initiatives to broaden engineering study and move from focusing on traditional academic knowledge towards building ability in professional engineering design problem solving. We analysed interview and 1st year academic results for 600 FEAS applicants who subsequently became undergraduate engineering students at the University. The analyses show that that student success overall is still strongly related to theoretical skills, despite curriculum change initiatives. Other studies suggest a potential explanation: established engineering academic value systems are hard to shift. Both the interviews and undergraduate coursework assessment are conducted mainly by academic researchers who have themselves successfully come through a traditional engineering education. The results of this study have not only suggested how to improve the interview processes, but have also provided quantitative evidence of the systemic mechanisms that sustain established learning and teaching practices.