2 Mar 2015

Hundreds of UE 'fails' accepted into universities

10:31 am on 2 March 2015

Universities start their academic year today and it appears many of the school leavers who failed to meet the new university entrance standard have squeaked in after all.

About 4400 fewer teens achieved UE after changes resulted in a surprise slump in the pass rate - from 70 percent of Year 13 students to 58 percent.

Some students had to study over the summer to gain a place at university.

Photo: 123rf

Universities spoken to by Radio New Zealand News say they have enrolled many of those who came up short, but they are not lowering their standards.

They say some students have been accepted because they had merit and excellence results, while others have gone back to school and got the last few credits they needed.

Hundreds more have been enrolled in bridging or foundation courses, either at a university or a polytechnic.

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The vice-chancellor of Victoria University, Grant Guilford, said it received 360 applications from students without UE, double the normal figure.

He said that included 175 who would have got UE under the old standard, and most of them managed to qualify after all.

"About 120 of them went back to school over the summer, either intra-murally or by correspondence, and have achieved the additional credits to start with us on Monday. So that's about 70 percent of those students that were originally affected."

Professor Guilford said just two students were accepted as special admissions, and the remainder, about 50, had gone back to school or to a polytechnic bridging programme with a view to enrolling later in the year or next year.

He said overall there had been no drop in the university's intake of first years and the new, slightly tougher UE standard should remain.

"There'll be no change to the standards from this university's stand-point and my colleagues around the university sector believe in the changes that were made, that they were sensible changes," he said.

"We just obviously have to make sure they are properly communicated to the schools and the students within the schools."

A spokesman for Massey University said it offered school leavers applying without UE a place at either the university or on a bridging course.

Exceptions made

Waikato University deputy vice-chancellor Alister Jones said the university got about 350 applications from students who failed UE, but would have got it under the old standard.

He said 65 were allowed in because even though they did not get UE, they had merit and excellence results.

"We've provided them special admission under exceptional circumstances," he said.

"These people will be monitored all the way through and supported through university to make sure that they are coping with that. So these are all students who have achieved, overall, at a very high level."

Professor Jones said the remaining students had been offered a range of bridging options, either at the university or in a six-month to one-year course at Waikato Institute of Technology.

He said despite its efforts to work with students who fell short, the university had a lot fewer school leavers than last year.

"As of sort of the end of February we're about 300 school leavers down from the previous year. We're quite surprised by that drop. We're not too, too worried at this stage ... we were expecting a drop, but it's bigger than what we expected."

Professor Jones said some students withdrew their applications or did not apply when they found out they had not got UE, and it is possible some of them will make a late application.

Standards 'may need tweeking'

Executive director of Universities New Zealand, Chris Whelan said he supported the tougher standards but they may need some technical changes.

Mr Whelan told Morning Report some students who got merit and excellence credits, and are academically capable, missed out on UE because they didn't gain enough credits in a third subject.

He denied universities were only letting those students in because they needed the money.