School leavers’ progression to bachelors-level study

Publication Details

This study looks at the likelihood of people leaving school for bachelors level study. It considered school leavers who had gained the University Entrance standard. The study investigated how the decision to go on to bachelors-level study was affected by the students’ standard of performance in NCEA, their ethnic group and gender, the socio-economic ranking (decile) of the school they attended, and whether or not they progressed directly to tertiary study after leaving school. The study used a method of reporting ethnicity that allowed for comparisons both within and between ethnic groups.

The report finds that those students with higher levels of success in NCEA were significantly more likely to go on to bachelors-level study. The decile of the school attended made no difference to this likelihood for Asian and European students, but Māori and some Pasifika students, with higher levels of academic ability, and who came from lower-decile schools, were significantly less likely to go on to bachelors study than similar students from higher-decile schools.

Author(s): Ralf Engler, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis and Reporting, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: March 2010

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Section 1: Summary

This study considers the likelihood of studying at bachelors level in a population of New Zealand school leavers 17 to 21 years-of-age, starting their tertiary studies for the first time between 2005 and 2008.

The study found that the likelihood of studying at bachelors level depended on how well the student performed at school, their ethnic group, the socio-economic status (decile) of the last school they attended, and whether or not they progressed directly to tertiary education after leaving school.

Overall, 71 per cent of the students in the study population studied at bachelors level. For those students who progressed to formal provider-based tertiary study, 86 per cent studied at bachelors-level. If these students also gained University Entrance (UE) and progressed directly to tertiary study, 90 per cent studied at bachelors level.

Generally, the likelihood of studying at bachelors level increased with increasing levels of academic achievement – measured by the relative number of excellence and merit results compared to achieved and not achieved results.

The socio-economic status or decile of the school a student attended is also associated with the likelihood of studying at bachelors level. For students with UE who progressed directly to tertiary study, those with lower achievement scores had much the same likelihood of studying at bachelors level, between 70 and 80 per cent, irrespective of the school decile. However, across the remainder of the achievement score range, students from lower-decile schools had significantly lower likelihoods than students from other schools, and students from mid-range decile schools had significantly lower likelihoods than students from higher-decile schools. To have a 95 per cent likelihood of studying at bachelors level, a lower-decile school student had an achievement score of 85, while a higher-decile school student had an achievement score of 55 for the same likelihood.

The ethnicity of a student was a further factor affecting the likelihood of studying at bachelors level. In this study, ethnic group was reported using single/combination categories of identification for each ethnic group. Given that some students changed their ethnic responses between school and tertiary study, each student was characterised as never, ever or solely belonging to the European, Māori, Pasifika and Asian ethnic groups. Each person in the study population was classified as never-Asian, ever-Asian, or sole-Asian, and similarly for the other three groups.

The study found that for European and Asian students who gained UE and who progressed directly to tertiary study, school decile had little or no influence on the likelihood of studying at bachelors level. On the other hand, for Māori and Pasifika students who gained UE and who progressed directly to tertiary study, those from lower-decile schools with mid to higher achievement scores who belonged to either the ever- or sole-Māori, or sole-Pasifika ethnic groups, had significantly lower likelihoods of studying at bachelors level than similar students from higher-decile schools.

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