A Ministry of Education report, released last week, showed that New Zealand has one of the lowest higher education qualification completion rates in the OECD – just 58%, compared to Australiaâ€™s 72%.
The report attributed the high non-completion rate of bachelors degrees in New Zealand tertiary institutions to the relatively large proportion of part-time students, and to a significant number of students changing their programmes of study part way through to something different from what they had started.
TEU President Tom Ryan, however, has argued that this explanation does not paint the full picture;
“While those are important factors, the other issue to consider is the financial imperatives on our institutions to get students into courses. Some students are missing out because they are not getting the institutional advice and support when they take up study – and when they disappear”.
“Sadly, itâ€™s a hangover form the old â€˜bums on seatsâ€™ funding model, where institutions set up courses to get students in the door, and then happily collected both their money and the government subsidy.” But some now are still unconcerned about those students who never turn up to class. “Staff call these students â€˜ghostsâ€™ because they simply never see them. In some first-year courses, â€˜ghostsâ€™ can comprise over 10% of total enrolments”, said Dr Ryan.
Dr Ryan says the issue is of particular importance to lecturers and tutors across the sector because government and tertiary institutions have been talking about student completion rates being included as a dimension of teaching staff performance evaluation.
“As long as tertiary institutions fail to act responsibly on the problem of â€˜ghostâ€™ students”, warned Dr Ryan, “staff should not allow student completion rates to be used as a measure of professional performance”.