Getting Started: Report on Stage 1 of the Evaluation of the Tertiary Education Strategy 2002/07

Publication Details

This report covers stage one of the evaluation of the Tertiary Education Strategy 2002/07. The evaluation focuses on how effective the Strategy has been in creating change in the tertiary education system.

This report provides a mid-term review of progress, covering the first three years of the Strategy. It draws together information from recently released reports on the use of the Strategy, profile objectives and monitoring of the Strategy, as well as other sources.

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

Date Published: October 2006

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Executive Summary

This is the first stage of the evaluation of the Tertiary Education Strategy 2002/07 (TES). The evaluation focuses on how effective the TES has been in creating change in the tertiary education system. In doing so, the evaluation is not concerned just with the TES document itself, but also with its success as a means of encapsulating and promoting the overall package of tertiary education reforms.

This report provides a mid-term review of progress, covering the first three years of the TES. At this stage we would expect the tertiary education system to be responding to the TES in the way it behaves and operates, but not necessarily to be making significant changes in research and educational outcomes.

Overall, the TES has provided a basis for engagement between the government and the tertiary education sector. There is broad acceptance of the value of having a Tertiary Education Strategy. The Strategy has provided a sense of there being a tertiary education system that encompasses and connects all post-school learning.

The TES has informed a greater focus on quality of education and research. However, the broad nature of the TES has allowed tertiary education organisations to focus on the aspects that best fit their strategies.

Where the TES has been explicitly linked to funding, shifts towards improved outcomes are already apparent. This is exemplified by the growth in research production, supported by improvements to quality and reputation, in response to the shift to performance-based research funding. However, in areas where there is no strong link between funding and strategy, shifts towards improved outcomes are not apparent. For example, within the context of a demand-driven student funding system, there has been a continued focus on increasing certificate-level provision, with few apparent improvements in participation and outcomes at degree level and above.

A good start but needs development

The evidence shows that the current TES is a good start at developing a strategy for tertiary education. There is general acceptance of the value of having an overall strategy for tertiary education. It has provided a basis for engagement between government and the tertiary education sector on matters of funding and direction. Stakeholders can see their aspirations expressed within the Strategy. It has provided a greater focus on some areas of importance.

However, more can be done to ensure that the next TES is a more effective strategy. Areas for development include:

  • a clearer focus on priorities and a clearer sense of what matters most
  • increased engagement between government and the sector to work together to develop actions that will achieve the goals of the Strategy
  • improved strategic leadership from government agencies to communicate and give effect to priorities
  • increased confidence of stakeholders that real progress is being made to address their aspirations
  • better communication of the Strategy throughout the sector and to stakeholder groups.

Improvement within the system - more to be done on external linkages and contributions

The evidence shows continued improvement within the tertiary education system, facilitated and reinforced by the TES. Tertiary education organisations have a greater focus on access and achievement. Collaboration within the system is starting to increase. There is a greater emphasis on the quality of teaching and research.

However, the evidence suggests that there is more to be done to improve the linkages of the tertiary education system with key stakeholder groups, such as business, industry, Māori, iwi, and Pasifika communities. A more deliberate approach to global linkages may also be required.

There is a tendency for the tertiary education sector, including government agencies, to be inwardly focused. There is little evidence of explicit connections being made to national goals. The extent to which a greater future focus is being achieved is uncertain. The overall culture of the sector is seen by some to be defensive and resistant to change.

Increased participation at certificate level and little change in outcomes

Participation has continued to grow at certificate level, while participation rates are fairly steady at higher qualification levels. Retention, completion, and progression have been somewhat declining overall, as employment opportunities improve.

Increased external research indicates quality and relevance

The amount of external research undertaken by universities has increased. Increases have been supported by increased funding from both government research funding bodies and other sources. This indicates the confidence of funders in the quality and relevance of university-based research, as well as an overall growth in volume.

Second TES to have greater focus on priorities

The discussion paper for developing the second TES signals a greater focus on a few critical areas of change, supported by key priorities to be articulated in the Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities. At the same time the government will be introducing changes to planning, funding, and quality assurance and monitoring to support a more strategic approach to tertiary education investment.