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August 5, 2013 | by  | in News |
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One in Five Victoria Students Drop Out

At Victoria, students don’t come back to study, don’t pass courses, and don’t get qualifications as often as students at the majority of New Zealand universities, new data shows.

The Tertiary Education Commission released the data in late July, and it covers all New Zealand universities for 2012.

The data show that Victoria ranked at or below average for a number of key indicators: successful completion of courses, completion of qualifications, and students retained in study. 86 per cent of students successfully completed their courses in 2012, while 77 per cent of students completed their qualification. 81 per cent of students were retained in study, meaning one in five students did not return to study at Victoria this year.

In comparison to other universities, Victoria does a worse job than Otago, Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury in completion rates for courses and qualifications. However, qualification rates are difficult to compare, as universities with growing enrolments (such as Victoria) possess lower graduation rates as a result of having a lower proportion of students at third-year and above.

Otago, Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury, and AUT all had higher student retention rates than Victoria.

Despite falling in the middle of the pack, Victoria is improving across the board: in 2010, course completion rates were 83 per cent while qualification completion rates were 7 points lower at 70 per cent.

“Victoria has improved overall on three of the four indicators over the past three years—successful course completion, qualification completion and student retention,” said Interim Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Peter Thirkell.

“There are obviously areas for improvement and we remain committed to initiatives that have shown results over the past three years, including changes to the academic progress statute and admission requirements, our review of undergraduate education and the continuing implementation of work relating to our student experience strategy.”

Thirkell also defended New Zealand’s completion rates as a whole, noting that they are high by international standards.

“In the US for example, the average six year graduation rate for bachelor’s degrees is 55 per cent, and Massachusetts, as the best performing state, is 69 per cent,” he said.

VUWSA President Rory McCourt supported Thirkell’s view, stating Victoria has been consistent in both its position relative to other universities, and in improving rates each year.

“Victoria has ranked 5th consistently in recent years in terms of completion rates. Our rates have gone up year on year, with great progress in Maori and Pasifika course completion rates.”

“Our continuously improving completion rates reflect a deliberate investment by the university community in supporting students from the day they arrive, till the day they graduate,” McCourt said.

Victoria has 19,029 students, who on average take 81 per cent of a full course-load. This gives Victoria the equivalent of 15,549 full-time students for 2012. Of these students, 88 per cent are doing undergraduate or Honours degrees, with 11 per cent completing Master’s or Doctorate degrees.

The figures also cover ethnicity, and show that Victoria has more Europeans and fewer Asians than the national averages. Last year, Victoria was 80-per-cent European compared to 69 per cent nationally, and 12-per-cent Asian compared to 20 per cent nationally. Rates for Māori (10 per cent), Pasifika (5 per cent) and Other students (5 per cent) matched national averages.

A third of all students are 18 or 19 years old, while half of all students are between 20 and 24. One in 20 students is over 40.

Students retained in study

Students retained in study measures the proportion of students in a given year that complete qualifications, or enrol at the same university in the following year. Victoria’s 81 per cent means that 19 per cent of people (not including those who graduated) didn’t come back in 2012.

Successful completion of courses

This measures the proportion of courses in a given year that are successfully completed, i.e., passed. Victoria’s 86 per cent means that of all the courses taken by all the students, students passed 86 per cent of the time.

Completion of qualifications

This measures the proportion of students in a given year who complete a qualification. Victoria’s overall completion rate of 77 per cent combines the completion rate of Bachelor’s degrees (77 per cent) with the completion rate of Master’s and Doctorates (86 per cent).

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