Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Completing a Degree

(Cappelli, 2012, p. 48)
I have written before about an interview with author, Peter Cappelli, and The Wharton School of Business at Penn U (15 June 2015).

What I have not mentioned was that Peter talked in the Wharton interview about US degree completion rates being one of the lowest in the world. In fact, Business Insider reports that "In 2012, 39 percent of young Americans were expected to graduate from college, compared with 60 percent in Iceland, 57 percent in New Zealand and 53 percent in Poland. The U.S. graduation rate was ahead of Canada (35 percent), Germany (31 percent), Switzerland (31 percent), Spain (29 percent), Turkey (27 percent), Italy (26 percent), Chile (23 percent), Hungary (23 percent) and Mexico (22 percent)" (9 September 2014).

In addition, 47.6% of young-ish Kiwis have a Diploma or a Degree (Capelli, 2012, p. 48). Not bad.

At 57% completion, it appears that successive New Zealand governments have worked in the right way: our students are more likely than not to complete their degrees.

Our majors are slowly being nationally standardised, with the Government only paying each institution in full - the 75% of domestic student fees paid through taxes - on degree completion. This has the advantage of forcing tertiary institutes to remove speciality and rarely offered papers from the mix* so that students complete within the allowable time. It also encourages institutions to staircase students through tiered qualifications so that (a) students leave with a qualification - ie, cert, dip, degree, and (b) as the institutional payment relies on completion, students are less likely to be pushed beyond their competence for another ring-up on the till.

However, this latter might mean a softening of standards, if the institute is not careful to uphold academic integrity. Somewhat less likely in New Zealand with our 'fair play' focus, but it is clear how the twin torsions of payment and standards may not necessarily play nicely together. Something for us to be vigilant about.

And to remember that there is still 43% of students who don't finish, for whatever reason that is. Something for us to work on too.


* Speciality papers have not been dropped, but have been moved to honours, grad-cert or -dip qualification offerings instead. That allows everyone's needs to be met.



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