Summary of responses to NZQA’s University Entrance review discussion paper


NZQA undertook a periodic review of University Entrance in 2016–2017. The purpose of the review was to ensure that the University Entrance requirements remained relevant and fit-for-purpose.

NZQA established an External Advisory Group to provide advice to NZQA through the review. On 13 March 2017, NZQA released a discussion paper on University Entrance, seeking stakeholders’ views on each of the NZQA’s initial conclusions. The consultation closed on 28 April 2017.

NZQA received 152 responses: 138 through the survey and 14 written responses. There were 128 individual submissions and 24 organisational submissions.

Summary of feedback

Below are the key themes from the feedback, by each of NZQA’s initial conclusions.

University Entrance remains relevant

The majority of organisational responses agreed. Some respondents said that some students can succeed at degree level study without attaining University Entrance. Others observed that University Entrance may not adequately prepare students for degree level tertiary studies. Concern was also expressed about Māori students’ University Entrance achievement rates.

The majority (82 per cent) of survey respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that University Entrance remains relevant, considering that it provided a reasonable benchmark and that students should not be set up to fail.

18 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed. Most respondents who disagreed (largely school staff members) commented that this is because the award does not guarantee entry to university or because it is not relevant to all their students.

University Entrance should continue to be aligned with NCEA L3

All organisations which expressed a view agreed to this conclusion.

The majority (90 per cent) of the survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed, with 9 percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Most respondents who disagreed (largely school staff members) commented that they considered some students were ready for university at Level 2 (eg. if they had gained Excellence in academic subjects at NCEA Level 2).

The literacy requirement should remain as it is [10 credits at Level 2 or above] but the list of standards that can be used to meet it should be reviewed

70 per cent of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the literacy requirement should remain as it is. Of the 26 per cent who either disagreed or strongly disagreed, most thought the standard too low. Most organisations, and 78 per cent of survey respondents, agreed that reviewing the list of standards would be a sensible first step in reviewing this requirement. 10 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Many organisations noted their concerns about extended writing skills.

A number of suggestions were made. Some respondents considered the standard to be too low and suggested that it be raised to Level 3; there should be fewer standards that are more rigorous; the requirement should be externally assessed. One thought that 14 credits should be required.

One submission said that the existing requirement may have a disproportionately negative effect on Māori students.

The numeracy requirement should remain as it is [10 credits at Level 1]

Most organisations agreed that the requirement should remain as it is, although both Lincoln and Massey universities consider the requirement should be at Level 2. The majority (61 per cent) of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the current requirement, with 24 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Of those who disagreed, most considered the requirement too low.

Note: The requirement can be met through designated numeracy-rich standards in a wide range of learning areas (e.g. mathematics, business studies, physics) at Levels 1 – 3.

Whilst many organisations expressed their concerns about numeracy skills, most still considered the current requirement should remain, commenting that a raised numeracy requirement is not necessary for successful degree level study in all programmes.

One organisation thought that 14 credits should be required.

Two respondents suggested that the package of numeracy unit standards should not be able to contribute to the numeracy requirements.

The requirement for 14 credits in each of three approved subjects should remain as is

Most organisations and 75 per cent of survey respondents support this requirement. 22 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed. Those who agreed felt that the requirement was suitably challenging and appropriately academic in nature. Those who disagreed commented on the impact on designing school courses; and that it has an adverse effect on other subjects.

Te Kāhui Amokura [UNZ’s Māori sub-committee] is concerned that this requirement is difficult to achieve for small schools, rural schools and wharekura.

One response commented that the approved subject list has unintended consequences for schools. These include the backwash effect on curriculum design and meeting the needs of all students.

The PPTA did not agree and suggested that either the requirement should be 42 credits from any Level 3 achievement standards or that a ‘subject’ could be any standards drawn from a single learning area. School representatives provided examples of innovative courses that can prepare students well for a range of future pathways.

Generic subjects should remain

Almost 80 per cent of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed and 10 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The university sector expressed its concerns that the generic subjects do not adequately prepare students for a range of degrees.

Some schools noted that generic subjects worked well for their schools, eg. learning programmes can be customised to suit their students’ needs, and that there should be more.

Many of the school staff submissions suggested that there should be more generic subjects.

There should be a regular process for reviewing the approved subjects list

Almost 90 per cent of survey respondents and all organisations agreed or strongly agreed. 7 per cent of survey respondent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Some universities suggested that the review should include a review of the number of standards in some areas as well as subjects because of concerns that students can achieve a subject without the necessary core skills and knowledge.

Other related matters

Some respondents made comments on areas that were out of scope for the review. These included a name change for University Entrance and suggestions about adding some unit-standards based subjects to the list e.g. tourism; sociology; and Māori performing arts.

Consultation responses

24 responses from organisations:

  • Universities New Zealand (UNZ) (two responses, one each from the UE sub-committee and Te Kāhui Amokura)
  • Five from universities (Otago, Massey, Waikato, Lincoln and Canterbury)
  • One Institute of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) (Toi Ohomai)
  • One wānanga (Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi)
  • Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)
  • Ministry of Education
  • Two subject associations (the History Teachers’ response is a collation of 38 survey responses from its members, and the Sociology Teachers)
  • Sociological Association of NZ
  • Tourism Industry Aotearoa
  • Six responses from schools/wharekura
  • Four responses from Private Training Establishments (PTEs)

128 individual responses:

  • 110 school/wharekura staff
  • 10 students (6 school students and 4 tertiary students)
  • Six tertiary staff
  • Two general members of the public
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