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Rating your uni – better than PBRF

  • March 13th, 2012

Publishing graduate incomes 5 years after finishing a course (using IRD data) could be the least expensive and most effective thing the Minister of Tertiary Education does to mitigate the vast waste of tax money that is Grant Robertson's interest free student loan scheme.

The government announcement must be low-key. I have not found it on the Minister's website. Reports talk of publishing in relation to "courses". Presumably that will mean courses at identified institutions. If so, for the first time the tertiary institutions will be ranked on a measure with a clear and simple meaning for enrolling students.

In the US private publishers sample graduate information. Often they measure average time to first job, starting salaries and salaries at five years. Their published gradings have a substantial influence on enrollment preferences. New Zealand Vice Chancellors have long had some survey information of this kind but it has never been published in a form likely to be useful to students.

The PBRF (Performance Based Research Fund) ranking  is coming up for its second application as at June this year. It rates academics (and their schools and universities) according to their published research output. It is partly a response to fears that the enrollment based funding system had precipitated a race to the bottom, with university recruitment being driven by the profitability of courses that maximised student numbers. That in turn could be overly influenced by perceived ease of passing, not academic quality..

Employers on the other hand generally demand courses with rigour. They may not much care about the course content as long as the exam results can be a proxy or heuristic for the aptitudes that make workplace success likely (diligence, intelligence, ambition etc).

The relative starting salaries and salaries 5 years out, of graduates in the same "courses" but from different institutions, could create a stronger student demand for rigour, and more support from university management for .staff who weed out the unsuitable students, to maintain quality reputations





Stephen, it was in National's election policy – p.5 at It has been discussed with tertiary education leaders since before the election. It builds on previous Stats NZ/MOE/DOL work matching education and IRD data.


Thanks Dave – I had not recalled that statement:
Collect and publish employment data for graduates of each qualification.
Making this information public will help students decide which avenues of study are more likely to lead to the careers they want

But it does not say whether it will enable comparisons of institutions. For example, simply publishing the data for LLB graduates it will not help prospective students who have settled on law and only want to know where they should study. Nor will it put pressure on the Law Schools. For example it is folk-lore among law firm employers that Waikato graduates should be at the bottom of the hiring queue. It may be outdated. It may never have been justified (though I had some personal experience of Waikato graduates whose writing standard should have had them in remedial reading class, not legal employment).
You are well connected in this industry Dave – will the scheme enable the publishing of tertiary league tables, or will it be as pitiful in the face of the teachers as National’s efforts with national standards for primary and secondary?


The discussion is behind the scenes sector consultation on a private basis,so hard to tell how advanced it is.
I hope that they do report it by qualification and provider, but currently course and qualification completion data is only reported by provider, which makes it useless for most students (unless the provider focuses on a single qualification and/or is small) as they can't tell the results for their intended qualification. I suspect the data will be presented at a high level that is not all that useful, but hopefully more detailed data will be released over time.


Concern about academic standards is long overdue. You may be interested to see this new blog:
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Apologies, the link did not come out correctly:

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