Massey University has been ranked the worst university in the country, ranking lower than many polytechnics in terms of performance.
In figures released by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) yesterday, the university was listed as being bottom of the class across all four key measurement indicators.
However, the university hit back at the results, saying its high proportion of part time and distance learners took longer to complete qualifications.
The publishing of the data was a first for the TEC, which will now release the same statistics every year to show the performance of students at every New Zealand tertiary institution.
The data ranks universities across four key performance areas – completions of courses and qualifications, progression to higher study and drop out rates – and found Massey to be the worst performer across them all.
About a quarter of students failed to complete their course, ranking the university 17th out of the country's 31 polytechnics, wananga and universities.
The figures came as no shock to Massey University assistant vice-chancellor Cas Carter, who believed the high number of part-time, extramural and older students studying at Massey had brought their ranking down.
"More than half of our 35,000 students are studying part-time, usually while working and often bringing up families," she said.
"These rankings look at how quickly courses and qualifications are completed, but our students contribute to the GDP."
The university had no plans to close its doors to those at-risk students in order to lift its rating.
"That's our profile, that's what we do," she said. "Those tables don't adequately reflect Massey; we are a quality institution."
But the figures could hurt the university's financial coffers, with Government plans to link performance and employment outcomes to funding.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the tables provide greater transparency for the country's investment in tertiary education and provide clear information for students. "They are a good snapshot of the respective strengths of the tertiary institutions." People should read the information within context, he said.
The education sector has slammed the tables as being over-simplified and damaging, with Massey Extramural Students' Association releasing a statement saying the information would "mislead and confuse" people.
Student president Ralph Springett said Massey was being penalised for providing education to those balancing study with work, parenting and financial pressures. "The government has lost the plot when it comes to the value of part time study," he said. "It is ridiculous that students who avoid taking a student loan and work productively are the ones singled out as non performers."
The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) also came to the defence of Massey due to the makeup of its student body.
- The Manawatu Standard