Tertiary ‘student performance’ league table feared

Posted By TEU on Aug 19, 2010 |

Tertiary Update Vol 13 No 31

The Tertiary Education Commission will publish data on individual tertiary education institutions at the end of the month, ranking them according to how many of their students complete courses, complete qualifications, progress to higher study, and are retained in study. While the TEC may not release this data in league table format, media or members of the public could convert into a league table if they wish.

National Radio revealed the plan for the pending publication this week, and noted widespread concern in the sector that the data will be unfair:

“It is well-known in tertiary education circles that institutions with many part-time, extra-mural or second-chance students have lower pass rates than those that do not.”

Tertiary Education Commission Chief Executive Dr Roy Sharp says the TEC will be providing information in a comparable format.

“This will allow learners and their families to quickly and easily access comparable information about each organisation.”

“In the end, the format in which we provide this information is not the key issue. We accept that it can, and will be, represented in different ways by media, tertiary providers and the public. Our main concern is to ensure that information is clear and consistent.”

However, TEU national president Dr Tom Ryan responded that any form of league tables is damaging and demoralising because institutions that rank poorly are likely to be unfairly branded as ‘failing’. It can take institutions many years to throw off the tag of a ‘failed institution’.

“All students, irrespective of their income, culture, race, ability levels, or geographical location, deserve the chance of tertiary education so that they can contribute to their own wellbeing, the country’s economy, and our communities,” said Dr Ryan.

“League tables such as those that invariably will emerge from what the government is proposing mainly will benefit institutions that have the most wealthy students in full-time study. But they will tell us relatively little that is meaningful about academic achievement or student performance.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Vic Uni staff negotiate for Fairness at Work
  2. Massey to cut jobs
  3. Tairāwhiti-EIT merger a bid to survive
  4. Work begins on global student assessment
  5. Nine Trades Academies in 2011
  6. Steven Joyce: “No… well, maybe.”

Other news

The weekend after the Education and Science Select Committee finished hearing submissions on Roger Douglas’ voluntary student membership bill, an overwhelming majority of which opposed the bill, including many chief executives and vice-chancellors of tertiary institutions, a fraud scandal has engulfed the students’ association at Whitireia Polytechnic. TEU national president Dr Tom Ryan says that “While what has happened at the students’ association is indefensible, we do have to question the timing of the release of this information in such close proximity to a decision being made on the Douglas bill”. Whitireia journalism students’ newspaper Newswire has extensive coverage of the alleged misuse of funds.

Luckily the government’s funding cuts and freezes are not universal for the tertiary education system. Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom has just welcomed the recent announcement from Prime Minister John Key that the New Zealand government is launching a $1 million scholarship scheme for New Zealanders to apply to study at an internationally recognised business school.

The Sunday Star Times recently revealed that Unitec CEO Dr Rick Ede ranked third in a list of state sector bosses’ expense claims. The $79,611 on his tab included: a $295 tea-for-two at the Jervois Steak House, $2,322.60 for a ‘Leadership Team and Partners’ Dinner’ at Remuera’s Banque Gastro Bar, and $5842.97 on a ‘Council Strategy Day’ at the Westin Hotel – including $295 for a chocolate table centrepiece. TEU members at Unitec are finding it all a bit hard to swallow. After awarding staff on individual contracts an average salary increase of 4 percent in 2008, and despite Unitec generating around $8.4m in profits last year, Dr Ede insisted through the protracted MECA negotiations that the new government’s expectations of state sector austerity meant that unionised staff at Unitec are each worth a one-off payment of $700. Enough for a nosh-up at one of his preferred restaurants, perhaps?

The just released 2008 New Zealand General Social Survey on how  different levels of education relate to a range of social and  economic indicators finds that for New Zealanders aged 25 to 64 tertiary education has a positive impact on income, employment, health, tolerance, volunteering, voting, recycling and life satisfaction. Many of the wider benefits  associated with having a tertiary qualification remained after adjusting for the effects of income, age, gender, and whether people were born in New Zealand or not.

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email: http://scr.im/stephenday

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