Fri 4 Nov 2016

TEC figures paint a different picture

A new Tertiary Education Commission measure which includes all students rather than only those it funds has painted a clearer picture of WITT’s performance, putting it at the top of one “league”.

The TEC rates the course and qualification completion rates of students it funds each year.

For institutes like WITT, who draw 64% per cent of its students to courses at Levels 1 to 4, the completion rates fall behind the likes of Otago Polytech, which has 29% per cent of its students at those levels.

The final figures, which are also picked up by the media and presented as a measure of the effectiveness of polytechs, also ignore international students and in the case of WITT those who are enrolled with its subsidiary, NZIHT.

So for 2015, the TEC has produced two sets of figures.

WITT chief Barbara George said she was not fond of the figures appearing in league tables, regardless of whether WITT topped one.

“It is very difficult to compare apples with apples, because institutes cater for their own communities, and they are all different.

“At WITT we are committed to aligning our programmes to the needs of the region and the student demands. So league tables can be quite unhelpful because they don’t tell the full story.”

The TEC has produced parallel figures for qualifications completion and first year retention rates, though not course completion rates.

They underline what could be seen as an uneven playing field across the sector, caused by that fact that polytechs do not have a common percentage of international students, do not run the same courses and do not have common ratios of students at different study levels.

This unevenness is particularly highlighted by the fact that WITT, having finished at the foot of the qualification completion table under the old calculation can show a completion rate 10% above the average for all ITPs under the new calculation.

WITT’s qualification completion rate under the new measures is 65% (ITP average 55%) and first year retention in study 81% (ITP average 65%).  The qualification completion rate incorporating all learners at WITT, regardless of whether they have been eligible for TEC funding, places WITT third out of the 18 polytechs. In terms of First Year Retention in Study, the new data places WITT first out of the 18 Polytechs.

In terms of progression to higher levels of study, WITT is 29% (ITP average 34%) and under the head Retention in Study WITT scores 69% - the national average.

The course completion rate is gauged under the old system and WITT recorded 72%, compared to 71% in 2014 and 81% in 2013.

“What this underlines is that the figures can tell different stories – so it’s not right to put them forward as a true measure when comparing different institutes,” Barbara George said. “The TEC rightly wants to measure what happens to the funding it provides, and the figures assist it, but when those figures are presented as the measure of a polytech and used to compare one with another, the outcomes can be completely misleading, if not damaging.’’