Doing a bachelors degree Publications
This paper looks at differences in the performance of young people who leave school and progress on to bachelors degree study. It compares the performance of students with different levels of school achievement. It also compares the performance of young degree students at polytechnics and universities. We use qualification completion rates and first-year course completion rates as the measures of performance in tertiary study. We look only at young students studying on a full-time basis, and we take account of the achievement of the students in secondary school.
Author(s): Ralf Engler and Roger Smyth, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis and Reporting, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: June 2011
Comparing university entrance and NCEA levels
For students who progress onto degree-level study after leaving school, those with higher school achievement, on average, do better in their tertiary studies. For students who meet the university entrance requirement, those who achieve NCEA level 3 do better than those who do not gain NCEA level 3. And while those who don’t meet the university entrance requirement tend not to perform as well as those who do, it is the achievement of NCEA level 3, over level 2, that is associated with the greatest improvement in performance.
Bachelors degrees offered at polytechnics and universities have different orientations. The distribution of students across fields of study is also different. So are the demographic and study characteristics of students at the two institution types—polytechnic students are older and more likely to be part-time.
If we just focus on young, full-time students, the polytechnic students have lower prior school achievement—a proxy for the innate academic ability of the students.
But when we control for age, full-time status and the level of school achievement in NCEA, polytechnic degree students have slightly higher first-year pass rates than university students. And the five-year qualification completion rates of these students in the two institution types are similar.
However, this doesn’t suggest that polytechnics are actually doing a better job than universities—only that for the group of students we are interested in for this study, the polytechnic pass rate is better.