5 Sep 2018

TEC defends survey after universities block ratings

4:29 pm on 5 September 2018

The Tertiary Education Commission is defending a new student survey from criticism by universities and the tertiary staff union.

Generic Library / Students

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The eight universities have blocked publication of the MyQ survey's ratings of their qualifications and the Tertiary Education Union says the survey is unnecessary.

But the commission's deputy chief executive information Brendan Kelly told Nine to Noon the survey was robust and would give would-be students valuable information.

"This is letting people who have been through the tertiary education system really help those who are thinking about their learning decisions," he said.

The survey asks students to rate the usefulness of their qualification and whether they would recommend it.

The first results were to be published in February 2017 but there were too few responses at that time, and work to ensure the robustness of the system caused further delays and to date no results have been published.

The commission said it now had 7744 valid responses and 2167 qualifications had the minimum number of responses required for publication. However, 639 of those qualifications were university qualifications and the commission would not publish that information because universities had opted out.

Universities New Zealand told RNZ the survey's threshold for publication was too low and would cause skewed results.

But Mr Kelly said the commission stood by the accuracy of the data.

"We're very confident of the robustness of our methodology. We've had it checked by several experts including one from one of the universities and we've put a lot of process safeguards and controls in place to make sure this is very robust data."

He said the minimum sample size required for publication was bigger than those required by similar surveys in other countries.

The thresholds for publication of results were 50 responses for courses with 250 or more graduates, 25 responses for courses with 51-250 graduates, and at least five responses for courses with 50 or fewer graduates.

Mr Kelly said MyQ was one of several sources of information the commission was preparing that would help learners make decisions about where and what to study.

He said results from more than 7000 valid responses received so far showed a very high satisfaction with tertiary education.

"Around about 93 percent have indicated very high levels of satisfaction," he said.

The president of the Tertiary Education Union, Sandra Grey, said the quality of New Zealand's tertiary education system was already well known and the MyQ survey was unnecessary.

She said the MyQ survey was blunt and did not delve into the real student experience.

"When you're trying to decide where to study you need to know things like 'is there good student support', 'is it the type of learning environment I need'. This survey isn't going to help in that way," she said.

"Why are we spending money on tools we don't need."

Dr Grey said the results would be presented as percentages, so it was not clear if the information was based on many responses or just a few.

However, Mr Kelly said more than 1000 learners had been consulted in the development of MyQ and they were strongly supportive of the survey.

"Really we're reflecting the voice of the students here," he said.

"We're pretty confident that we're meeting a very genuine student need that this information and the other information we'll be publishing over the next few months is really going to assist students to make good decisions."

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