Massey students struggle to complete degrees

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 10/07/2014

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Massey University students are lagging behind learners elsewhere in the country when it comes to completing qualifications.

But the tertiary provider says a past plunge in students' course completions has now been corrected and pass rates are regular.

New numbers crunched by the Ministry of Education show more students were finishing qualifications in New Zealand last year than seven years ago.

Last year 144,396 students received accolades for their academic achievements, down from the 145,750 in 2012 and up from the 121,334 in 2006.

Massey had 6242 students complete a qualification last year, up from the 6045 in 2012 but down from the 7281 in 2006.

The university was one of three among the 30-plus tertiary providers compared that performed poorly over the seven-year period, with Waikato and Victoria universities also taking a hit in the number of students completing courses between 2006 and 2013.

Massey spokesman James Gardiner said there was a dramatic drop in 2007, when numbers went from 7281 to 5644, but the university's course completions had remained steady since - at about 17 per cent of Massey's student community per year.

The 2007 hit was due to a mix of things, he said, including Massey's total student numbers shrinking a few years earlier, increased competition in the international student market, the global financial crisis, the financial downturn deterring distance students, as well as a move to a capped funding environment for tertiary education with a reduction in government funding of domestic students.

Massey had a high proportion of distance and part-time students, many of them mature aged and employed. A degree might not be a high priority for some of them.

Massey had an ideal eight-year time-to-complete mark, which was flexible depending on students' situations, he said.

"We know that a large number of our student population are busy and have to fit study in with other competing priorities and invariably it will take these people longer to reach their qualification goals than those that don't have quite the same pull on their time."

UCOL had 2077 students complete qualifications last year, down from 2177 in 2012 and up from 1985 in 2006.

UCOL spokeswoman Jean Archer said it was pleasing to see the organisation's efforts working.

"Our Palmerston North campus marked a milestone this year with over 2000 students eligible to graduate with degrees, diplomas and certificates at our graduation ceremonies in March - this is a 20 per cent increase in graduates from the past two years."

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Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the boost in qualifications being gained showed there was more than just a "bums on seats" focus for the Government, with the aim to get students succeeding.

- Manawatu Standard

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