Retention and Achievement

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

Tertiary student qualification and course completions

This section has updated statistics on the progression, attrition and completion rates by predominant field of study for students at government-funded tertiary education providers who started their qualifications between 2003 and 2018.

Key findings for provider-based tertiary education

What does the 2018 data show?

  • Overall, the number of domestic and international students completing a qualification fell in 2018 to 115,200 domestic students (down 3,080 or 2.6%), and 24,400 international students (down 430 or 1.7%). This fall is consistent with declining enrolment numbers over the past few years. The decreases in completions occurred across nearly all fields of study, and for all ages.
  • While the number of completions has decreased, domestic qualification completion rates have improved over time for all ethnic groups. 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, those studying full-time and those attending classes on-campus generally have higher qualification completion rates than men, part-time students and those studying off-campus respectively.
  • The latest 8-year full-time domestic retention rate for bachelors degrees is 78%, while for all types of study the bachelors degree retention rate is 70%. Across all qualification levels, the 8-year full-time domestic retention rate is 83%, while for all types of study it is 74%.
  • Graduate progression rates were similar to the previous year. For domestic students completing a qualification in 2017, 37% of Level 1 and 2 certificate graduates continued with higher-level study in 2018, 28% of Level 3 certificate graduates, 30% of Level 4 certificate graduates, and 21% of bachelors degree graduates.

Qualification completion numbers

The overall number of domestic students that completed a qualification decreased by 2.6% (3,075 students) from 118,180 in 2017 to 115,180 in 2018. This was largely driven by a decrease of 15% in completions for Level 4 certificates. International student completion numbers also dropped overall by 1.7% (420 students) from 24,835 in 2017 to 24,415 in 2018. The decreases in completion numbers occurred across nearly all fields of study, and for all ages. This fall follows declining enrolment numbers over the past few years (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Number of domestic students enrolled and number completing qualifications 2003-2018

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

Qualification and course completion rates

Completion rates in 2018 were similar to 2017. 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 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 completion rates by gender

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

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

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

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

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

Domestic qualification completion rates have improved over time for all ethnic groups. Figures 6 and 7 show 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 completion rates by ethnicity

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

Figure 7: Bachelors degree 7-year 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 it is 74% (see Figure 8). The complement of retention is attrition, or how many students leave without completing.

Figure 8: Bachelors degree 7-year completion rates by ethnicity

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 2017, 37% of Level 1 and 2 certificate graduates, 28% of Level 3 certificate graduates, 30% of Level 4 certificate graduates, and 21% of bachelors degree graduates continued with higher-level study in 2018. In contrast, 9% of those completing a graduate certificate or diploma in 2017, and 5% of masters graduates, continued with higher-level study in 2018.

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 [https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/tertiary_education/occasional-papers/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

Gaining Qualifications Updated: July 2019 

Statistics relating to qualification completion by a range of demographic and study-related characteristics.

Field of Specialisation for Students Gaining Qualifications from Tertiary Education Providers Updated: August 2019 

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

Course Completion Rates Updated: July 2019 

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 Updated: July 2019 

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

Files for business intelligence and analytics tools

Achievement in industry training Updated: June 2019

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

Field of Specialisation for Industry Training Learners Gaining Qualifications Updated: June 2019

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

Qualification attainment at Level 4 or above for those aged 25-34 years Updated: July 2017

Data showing progress towards the Better Public Services Result Area 6 target: 60% of those aged 25-34 years will have a qualification at Level 4 or above in 2018.

Achievement in Targeted Training Programmes Updated: November 2014

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

Educational Attainment of the Population Updated: January 2018

Statistics relating to qualification achievement of the New Zealand population.

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