Retention and Achievement

Statistics relating to attainment, attrition, retention and completion of students at tertiary education providers and through industry training.

Key findings for provider-based tertiary education

What does the 2019 data show?

Overall, the number of domestic and international students completing a qualification fell in 2019 to 110,650 domestic students (down 6,070 or 5.2%), and 23,425 international students (down 1,265 or 5.1%). This fall is consistent with declining enrolment numbers over the past few years.

  • The decreases in domestic completions occurred across nearly all fields of study, for both men and women, for all ethnic groups, for all sub-sectors, and for all age groups
  • While the number of completions has decreased in 2019, domestic qualification completion rates have generally remained similar to what was seen in 2018. Following a sustained period of improvement, completion rates have stabilised over the last few years, at these higher levels.
  • In terms of domestic students, Māori and Pacific Peoples generally have 5-year completion rates on a par with or above the average for lower-level qualifications and for graduate certificates and diplomas, but are below average for bachelors and masters degrees, and honours degrees and post-graduate certificates and diplomas. Asian students have the highest completion rates at all qualification levels.
  • The latest tertiary completions data for domestic students shows that women and those studying full-time, generally have higher qualification completion rates than men and part-time students respectively.
  • The latest 8-year full-time domestic retention rate for bachelors degrees is 79%, while for all types of study the bachelors degree retention rate is 71%. Across all qualification levels, the 8-year full-time domestic retention rate is 83%, while for all types of study (which includes full-time and part-time study) it is 74%.
  • Graduate progression rates were similar to the previous year. For domestic students completing a qualification in 2018:
    • 36% of Level 1 and 2 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study in 2019
    • 27% of Level 3 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study
    • 34% of Level 4 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study, and
    • 20% of bachelors degree graduates continued with higher-level study.

Qualification completion numbers (see Figure 1)

The overall number of domestic students that completed a qualification decreased by 5.2% (6,070 students) from 116,720 in 2018 to 110,650 in 2019.

  • This was largely driven by a decrease of 13% in completions for Level 2 certificates and for honours degrees/postgraduate certificates/diplomas. International student completion numbers also dropped overall by 5.1% (1,265 students) from 24,690 in 2018 to 23,425 in 2019.
  • The decreases in domestic completion numbers occurred across nearly all fields of study, for both men and women, for all ethnic groups, and for all age groups. This fall follows declining enrolment numbers over the past few years.
Figure 1: Number of students completing qualifications 2010-2019

Line Graph showing Number of domestic students enrolled and number completing qualifications

Qualification completion rates

Domestic completion rates in 2019 were similar to 2018. Qualification completion rates can be calculated for any number of years after a group of students has started study. The completion rate for each qualification level reaches a plateau after which it no longer increases. The rates shown in the graphs below have different follow up periods to allow for the different length of qualification, 3 years for Level 4 certificates and 7 years for bachelors degrees.

Figures 2 and 4 compare completion rates for Level 4 certificates and bachelors degrees by study pattern. Figures 3 and 5 compare the same qualifications by gender. While completion rates for part-time students have been increasing, they remain lower than for full-time students. Completion rates for female students remain higher than for male students.

Figure 2: Level 4 certificate 3-year domestic completion rates by study pattern

Line Graph showing Level 4 certificate 3-year completion rates by study pattern

Figure 3: Level 4 certificate 3-year domestic completion rates by gender

Line Graph showing  Level 4 certificate 3-year completion rates by gender

Figure 4: Bachelors degree 7-year domestic completion rates by study pattern

Line Graph showing Bachelors degree 7-year completion rates by study pattern

Figure 5: Bachelors degree 7-year domestic completion rates by gender

Line Graph showing Bachelors degree 7-year completion rates by study pattern

Figures 6 and 7 show domestic completion rates for Level 4 certificates and bachelors degrees by ethnicity. Māori and Pacific Peoples generally have domestic completion rates on a par with or above the average for certificate-level qualifications and for graduate certificates and diplomas, but are below average for bachelors and post-graduate qualifications. Asian students had the highest completion rates at both qualification levels.

Figure 6: Level 4 certificate 3-year domestic completion rates by ethnicity

Bar Graph showing Level 4 certificate 3-year completion rates by ethnicity

Figure 7: Bachelors degree 7-year domestic completion rates by ethnicity

Bar Graph showing Bachelors degree 7-year completion rates by ethnicity

Retention rates

Retention rates measure how long students persist in their studies. The retention rate includes students who completed their qualification as well as those who did not complete their original qualification but continued their studies in a higher-level qualification. The latest 8-year full-time domestic retention rate for bachelors degrees is 79%, while for all types of study the bachelors degree retention rate is 71%. Across all qualification levels, the 8-year full-time domestic retention rate is 83%, while for all types of study (which includes full-time and part-time study) it is 74% (see Figure 8). The complement of retention is attrition, or how many students leave without completing.

Figure 8: Bachelors degree 8-year domestic retention rate by study pattern, bachelors degrees and all qualifications

Line Graph showing Bachelors degree 7-year completion rates by ethnicity

Graduate progression rates

Many students continue their tertiary studies after completing a tertiary qualification, and this progression is often to a higher level of study than the qualification completed. Not surprisingly, graduate progression rates are usually higher for those completing lower-level certificate qualifications when compared to higher-level qualifications, such as graduate diplomas and masters degrees. An exception to this is bachelors degrees (a higher-level qualification), which also have relatively high graduate progression rates.

For domestic students completing a qualification in 2018:

  • 36% of Level 1 and 2 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study in 2019
  • 27% of Level 3 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study
  • 34% of Level 4 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study, and
  • 20% of bachelors degree graduates continued with higher-level study in 2019.

In contrast, 9% of those domestic students completing a graduate certificate or diploma in 2018 continued with higher-level study in 2019, while 4% of masters graduates continued with higher-level study.

Technical Notes and Definitions

Methodology:

Full details of the method used to calculate tertiary qualification completion, attrition, direct progression and graduate progression rates can be found in this factsheet: How does the Ministry of Education calculate tertiary qualification completion rates? It covers terminology and definitions, and provides worked examples of the calculations, as well as example data tables with guides to their interpretation.


Statistical Tables

Students Gaining Qualifications
from Tertiary Education Providers Updated: Jun-2020

Statistics relating to qualification completion for students at tertiary education providers by a range of demographic and study-related characteristics.

Field of Specialisation for Students
Gaining Qualifications from Tertiary Education Providers Updated: Jun-2020

Statistics relating to qualification completion for students at tertiary education providers by their field of specialisation and other characteristics.

Course Completion Rates Updated: Jun-2020

Statistics relating to the rate at which students pass courses. These rates may differ slightly from those published by Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in their education performance indicators series. This is because the student populations from which the rates are calculated are slightly different. TEC's data is expected to be available in due course.

Qualification completion, attrition and direct progression rates

Statistics about rates at which students complete qualifications, discontinue their studies without completing, or progress to higher-level study without completing the lower-level qualification. Data is presented for detailed and grouped qualification levels and types, and for narrow and broad fields of study. Data is available in spreadsheets as filtered lists, or as comma delimited text files for uploading into business intelligence and analytics tools.

Note: Tables do not include the retention rate, this can be calculated as one minus the attrition rate.

Broad qualification/type level and broad field of study Updated: Jun-2020

Broad qualification/type level and narrow field of study Updated: Jun-2020

Detailed qualification type/level Updated: Jun-2020

Detailed qualification type/level and broad field of study Updated: Jun-2020

Files for Business Intelligence and Analytics tools Updated: Jun-2020

Achievement in industry training Updated: Jun-2020

Statistics relating to achievement in workplace-based learning, including industry training and Apprenticeships.

Field of Specialisation
for Industry Training Learners Gaining Qualifications Updated: Jun-2020

Statistics relating to qualification completion for industry training learners by their field of specialisation and other characteristics.

Achievement in Targeted Training Programmes Updated: Nov-2014

Statistics relating to the rate at which students complete their courses.

Educational Attainment of the Population Updated: Jan-2018

Statistics relating to qualification achievement of the New Zealand population.

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