Low ranking blamed on part-timers
Massey University continues to be punished in national university rankings because of its high proportion of distance students.
The Tertiary Education Commission has released figures for student achievement in 2011, with Massey at the bottom, or second to bottom in each of the four categories.
The TEC says in its report that Massey's "large extra-mural roll" affected its ranking.
Massey enrols 64 per cent of all students who study by distance at New Zealand universities. Part-time students make up more than half of its total domestic enrolments.
“Distance learning is one of Massey's defining features," Massey vice chancellor Steve Maharey said. "It enables a wide range of students to successfully complete qualifications, which is one of three key expectations the Government has of all universities."
The TEC figures, which include part-time and distance students, show 80 per cent of papers at Massey undertaken in 2011 were completed; the national median is 86 per cent.
Mr Maharey said distance learning meant mature students and students with family commitments were able to contemplate university study.
"Some of our students take longer to complete their degrees as they are distance learners who are also engaged in paid work.
"When we compare the performance indicators of fulltime students only, Massey's completion rates are on a par with other New Zealand universities."
Just 49 per cent of students completed a qualification in 2011 at Massey compared to a national median of 76 per cent; 26 per cent of students at Massey progressed to a higher level of study compared to a median of 85 per cent; and 67 per cent of Massey students were retained in study, compared to a median of 81 per cent.
Mr Maharey said the indicators were one measure of performance, but there were others that were arguably much more relevant to students such as quality of teachers and research and student satisfaction ratings.
Massey excelled in those, Mr Maharey said.
Massey Extramural Students' Society president Ralph Springett said the measures were an "attack" on extramural students by the Government.
“The Government does not value students studying part-time,” Mr Springett said.
“Furthermore, these students are labelled as poor performers purely because they study part-time."
Tertiary, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the TEC reports showed improvement across the tertiary sector.
“Course completion rates have risen from 77 per cent in 2009 to 82 per cent in 2011, with qualification rates over the same period increasing from 62 per cent to 71 per cent,” Mr Joyce said.
“It shows the tertiary sector is responding to our signals to focus on performance and to deliver better value for taxpayers' money."
UCOL BOOSTS COURSE COMPLETION
The number of students who successfully complete courses at UCOL is continuing to increase. A Tertiary Education Commission report showed 71 per cent course completion at UCOL in 2011. The figures represent the number of students who successfully completed a course or paper towards a qualification. The figure is the second lowest of New Zealand's 18 polytechnics but is a marked increase on where UCOL was at in the previous two years. In 2010 UCOL's course completion rate was 62 per cent, in 2009 it was 56 per cent. The figures count students across UCOL's three campuses, Palmerston North, Whanganui and Wairarapa. UCOL chief executive Paul McElroy said several initiatives were introduced two years ago to boost student achievement. "We are very pleased with the outcome for 2011. We have exceeded most of the targets that we agreed to with the TEC, ahead of time. I am confident that our results for 2012 will continue the positive trend." UCOL ranks seventh among the country's polytechnics for the proportion of students completing qualifications, with 65 per cent. It is ranked ninth in the country for the TEC's two other measures – the percentage of students progressing to higher level study, at 35 per cent, and the percentage of students retained in study, at 56 per cent.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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