OPINION: Why did so many students fail UE last year and what needs to be done?

2015

Chris Whelan, Executive Director, Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara discusses why so many students failed University Entrance (UE) in light of the new UE requirements.

Chris Whelan Executive Director Universities New ZealandAbout 65,000 secondary students finish school each year.  Of them about 38% will enrol to study at one of New Zealand’s eight universities, 44% will choose to study at a polytechnic or wānanga or do trades training, and about 19% will join the workforce.

But last year about 900 school leavers who had applied to go to university, failed University Entrance.

Let’s have a look at what happened and why, and what students, parents and teachers can do about it.

In 2014 the bar was raised and new University Entrance requirements took effect.  The changes were made by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) following a review in 2010, which saw wide sector consultation, including with universities.  We were keen to raise the minimum literacy and numeracy standards required for entry to university.

Why?  Because universities wanted students to be better equipped to cope with the academic expectations and challenges they face once at university.

Under the new requirements, students now need to gain sufficient credits in both literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy.  They now also need 14 credits in three approved subjects.

While we don’t have absolute evidence about why so many more students missed out on University Entrance there are some clear patterns, especially around the new three subjects requirement.

So here’s some advice for students and parents, maybe even teachers, about how to gain UE this year or in future years.

First, ensure your student makes an informed decision about whether they want to study at university and therefore need to pass University Entrance.  To get into university today, students need both NCEA level 3 and University Entrance.

Ensure students are studying sufficient literacy and numeracy credits.  Note some subjects like Art History or History have credits that count towards literacy.

Build in some wriggle room.  A common issue last year was that many students aimed for the minimum number of credits required in literacy, numeracy and the three approved subjects.  Instead we strongly recommend that students study for more than the minimum number of credits in order to give themselves some critical “wriggle room”, in case they fail some credits or don’t hand in some work.

Check that the other three subjects being studied are on the “approved” subject list, which is available on NZQA’s website.  Schools offer a wide-range of NCEA subject options but not all of them are ‘approved subjects’ and count towards University Entrance.

It’s also worth noting here that in addition to achieving University Entrance, some university undergraduate programmes require students to have taken specific subjects at school and gained minimum credits in certain subjects.  All the universities’ websites provide good information for future students.

I strongly recommend that students thinking about going to university check with their school careers adviser, dean or other contact to ensure they are taking the right subjects and achievement standards to meet University Entrance and any other university requirements.

The good news is that of those who missed UE last year, about 16% of the 900 who initially missed UE, went on to gain it through catch up credits or resubmissions to NZQA.  A further 6% are doing bridging programmes at university, and a very small number gained special admission.

NZQA and the Ministry of Education are also continuing to work with schools to ensure they fully understand these changes.

Finally what can parents do?  Make sure your school knows your son or daughter proposes to go to university and ensure there is a plan in place.

How do you get UE?

University Entrance (UE) is the minimum requirement to go to a New Zealand university. To qualify you will need:

    • 5 credits in reading

    • 5 credits in writing

    • achievement standards – specified achievement standards available through a range of subjects, or

    • unit standards - package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627- all three required).

Source: http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications-standards/awards/university-entrance/


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