The Dim-Post

March 10, 2010

My diploma in Lithuanian Pottery will be worthless!

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 9:10 am

I do have one question about linking funding to student performance – how will it work for degree courses that have an intentionally high failure rate to ensure a very high quality of graduates and enhance the prestige of the degree?

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46 Comments »

  1. exactly. Universities are not like schools where the State has a duty to ensure kids are educated even against their will. At university it’s supposed to be competitive. It’s a really silly idea and surprising that a conservative party would propose it.

    Comment by Neil — March 10, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  2. And National solves the doctor shortage! Is there anything they can’t do?

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 10, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  3. Yep, university is supposed to be competitive, and the taxpayer is supposed to fund whatever the student wants to do.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — March 10, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  4. Courses will just get easier. Simple.

    Comment by Philonz — March 10, 2010 @ 9:21 am

  5. Half of the retarded courses and ‘providers’ that sprung up under the Clark regime will be axed. Simple.

    Comment by David Williams — March 10, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  6. I’m not talking about medical schools – they make it hard to get in, but once you’re in the degree program failures are pretty low. I was thinking about architecture – I might be wrong but I think their first year failure rate is over 50%.

    Comment by danylmc — March 10, 2010 @ 9:23 am

  7. Well, we need more clinical pyschs anyway, so they can just pass everyone.

    Comment by lyndon — March 10, 2010 @ 9:24 am

  8. I’m not talking about medical schools – they make it hard to get in, but once you’re in the degree program failures are pretty low.

    We’re not just talking about the failure rate, but also the failed to get the degree rate.

    The Health Sciences First Year is open-entry at Otago.

    What percentage of those who do it pass (perhaps quite high)? What percentage get degrees as a result? This is the sort of ‘waste’ we’re talking about.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — March 10, 2010 @ 9:42 am

  9. I was thinking about architecture – I might be wrong but I think their first year failure rate is over 50%.

    Massey’s vet school takes a similar approach to first-years. I remember my girlfriend flunking first-year vet with grades way higher than I managed throughout a humanities degree. I guess this govt knows what to do with universities that require excellence – cut their funding…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — March 10, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  10. I’m not talking about medical schools – they make it hard to get in, but once you’re in the degree program failures are pretty low. I was thinking about architecture – I might be wrong but I think their first year failure rate is over 50%.

    I imagine they will have to move to more of a law school style, whereby you reapply after your first year, and only a 1/3 or so get through.

    Also believe the final year of Architecture is meant to be a b****.

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — March 10, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  11. Well, for degrees which have intentionally high standards to get in, such as Law part 2 at auckland uni, you can pass every paper you take and still not get in.

    Comment by Deus — March 10, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  12. Courses will stop being open entry, and there will be entrance requirements that tend to screw people from lower decile schools (that’s what I would be looking at after just `game the system with dodgy reporting’, which yeah is probably what’s going to happen.)

    I disagree with your premise tho’, because I don’t think `only 1 in 3 people in first year get a degree’ has much of a relation to quality. Oxford sure as hell doesn’t boast about it’s failure rate. Harvard doesn’t.

    Comment by Keir — March 10, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  13. The first year software engineering paper I did a few years ago also springs to mind. Our lecturer (Pondi) was a very good teacher who put a lot of energy into the course. But when it comes down to tricky concepts like programming recursive algorithms, some people get them but most people don’t. I believe the grades distibution was an inverse bell curve where people either got As or failed.

    Comment by danylmc — March 10, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  14. There seems to be some misunderstanding in regards to the difference between failure of papers and failure to gain acceptance to limited entry courses.

    For example, to pass first year law and first year health science papers you need to get over 50%. This means you get the credits for the papers you have sat. But if you only get 50% there is no way you’ll be accpeted into second year law or medicine. Instead you can put your credits towards a BA or BSc repsectively. To actually gfain entry into law you need 75 to 80% minimum. Entry to Med is even higher.

    Presumably Stephen Joyce is after people who fail papers (less than 50%) rather than people who fail to gain entry to difficult courses.

    Comment by nic — March 10, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  15. Most (if not all) of the cuts will be to qualifications in the framework delivered by PTEs and Polytechs, University courses are less likely to be trimmed. There are plenty of level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications on the framework that should be trimmed, I have no problem with this. using pass rates as the justification seems pretty dumb though as it doesn’t mean a course is useless just that students aren’t passing it. So PTEs will just find ways to ensure more peole pass, one of which will be to help them along with assessments.

    Comment by Philonz — March 10, 2010 @ 10:51 am

  16. Yeah, in first year law at the University of Auckland they tell the students in the first lecture that only one out of 3 will make it through to second year. Nobody gets in who hasn’t got over an a minus average I believe…

    Comment by LucyJH — March 10, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  17. I haven’t heard of any courses at Auck uni which have failures due to poor teaching.

    No doubt poor teaching occurs but there’s an expectation that students at this level are more self-motivating. Failure rates aren’t a very good indicator of teaching quality.

    Comment by Neil — March 10, 2010 @ 11:02 am

  18. I haven’t heard of any courses at Auck uni which have failures due to poor teaching.

    Maths is (traditionally) the worst taught subject in any university. Those calculus teachers have to be sweating (more so than usual).

    Comment by danylmc — March 10, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  19. I haven’t heard of any courses at Auck uni which have failures due to poor teaching.

    Been in one of Gorden Williams’s classes. Pretty sure the law school very much regret the day they gave him tenor. Incompetant is an understatement.

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — March 10, 2010 @ 11:33 am

  20. Actually, very few Cs and Ds are given out at Architecture school – most of the people who pull out are actually passing, but finding the workload too much. That’s sensible for something like Architecture where the standards to get in in the first place are so high.

    Where the proposed change will have an effect is on poorly-taught open-entry courses. I expect they will have to make the exams easier so that even the people who haven’t learned enough will get pass marks so they don’t make their lecturers look bad.

    Comment by kahikatea — March 10, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  21. A lot of people think this will get rid of useless ‘twilight golf’ type courses, when in fact those are the ones which will thrive. They will just pass pretty much everyone, and as far as the government is concerned they will be doing fine. It’s the courses which are open to everyone but uphold reasonably high standards which will suffer. They will have to either a)introduce entrance requirements, which will exclude a whole lot of poor people, adult students, Maori, people from crap schools etc, many of whom could have passed, or b) lower their standards and pass people who should really fail.

    Comment by Helen — March 10, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  22. “Been in one of Gorden Williams’s classes. Pretty sure the law school very much regret the day they gave him tenor. Incompetant is an understatement.”

    And I’m pretty sure Auckland law school regrets all the times it lets in incompetEnt students who don’t know TENURE from a tenor. Just sayin’ that glasshouse dwellers don’t make great softball pitchers.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 10, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  23. What nic said @ 14!

    How much does it cost to hire an opera singer for a wedding? Well, you’d get no change from a tenor.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 10, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  24. FFS and it’s GordO Williams.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 10, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

  25. with an “n”, too, obviously…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 10, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  26. And since when was there actually tenure in NZ universities?

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 10, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  27. Lew,

    There is “confirmation” … which means you get 6 months notice when your position becomes redundant, rather than 3.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 10, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  28. And since when was there actually tenure in NZ universities?

    I have some deal where I have to give 6 months notice. Does that count?

    Comment by danylmc — March 10, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

  29. “And I’m pretty sure Auckland law school regrets all the times it lets in incompetEnt students who don’t know TENURE from a tenor. Just sayin’ that glasshouse dwellers don’t make great softball pitchers “

    You are right. Failing to check my spelling totally debunks my point. You are completely correct. Law is definitely completely about spelling and has nothing to do with logical thought. Much like the quality of one’s hastily constructed post is completely determined by a lack of spelling errors. And finally to address your pointless point, I wonder what Auckland University cares more about, a lecturer who constantly damages their reputation or a student who got good grades but yet whose spelling on a post is less than optimal.

    Now to follow your format a well known but slightly irrelevant quote based on overused idioms. Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — March 10, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  30. Oh, yeah, that’s just like never being able to be dismissed except for the most egregious sorts of misconduct…

    L

    Comment by Lew — March 10, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  31. ps Clunking Fist – at least I do not run a forum with postings that make no grammatical sense i.e. “This is truly is intelligent design..”

    Just sayin’ pot calling the kettle black and all that amazing stuff.

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — March 10, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  32. Jeff R:

    Yeah spelling isn’t important in law. Or knowing the difference between tenor and tenure. Because its not like legal practice is all about the pedantic application and/or interpretation of language. Or correctly knowing the relevant law before you spout off in public about it (i.e. knowing that we don’t really have tenure in New Zealand before commenting on university employment practices).

    Comment by Eddie C — March 10, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  33. Eddie.

    1) Never said it was irrelevant, I inferred it was secondary to other elements of law, being logical thought and interpretation. Its place is in assisting the later. Stating an argument falls over because it was spelt incorrectly is like arguing on semantics, hardly the strongest argument. Stating ones point is rather different to interpreting a statute.
    2) If you had actually attended and completed AU law school you would likely know that the lecturer to avoid if possible is Gordon Williams. It is no hidden secret, and was the one tip that was passed onto me. Ignoring this tip I soon found out how his reputation developed and why he is a key target in the annual Law review.
    3) Misspelling something does not mean someone does not understand the difference.
    4) Have you tried firing a lecturer in New Zealand? Not that easy by my observation. Paul Buchanan shows that. However I have heard he was put on notice to pick up his act, all hearsay however.
    5) My original comment whilst terribly phrased, it was hardly an attempt at literary genius, rather a throw away comment in response to A U not having poor teaching. AU, like all other institutions of its size has staff which are not that great at their job.
    6) I like lists as much as my inner desire for lamps.

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — March 10, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  34. There is tenure in principle, in the sense that once you are hired, you have a job unless the department is disestablished. To get promoted, you have to show performance, and the hiring process is quite tough and robust these days.

    In North America, on the other hand, you are hired, loaded down with teaching that the senior academics don’t want to do, then in 6 years are not granted tenure because you didn’t get a research programme going.

    That hasn’t actually happened to me or any of my friends, but I HAVE heard of a number of cases at enough universities to warrant concern.

    As for passing grades – our first year course is tough, but then the failure rate drops considerably. If the first year course becomes a problem, then we will likely institute an entry standard and restrict access. Most of the unis are working towards this sort of approach.

    Comment by David in Chch — March 10, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  35. Oh, and if you are denied tenure then that is effectively the termination of your contract and you go bye-bye. I have heard of at least two university departments that have reputations for having a revolving door of junior faculty. It is self-defeating, because ultimately they end up with no one to replace the senior academics when they retire, and no one but the desperate will apply for jobs at those departments.

    Comment by David in Chch — March 10, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  36. our first year course is tough, but then the failure rate drops considerably.

    Seems like that might be pretty standard across most sciences. Biology seems different – not too bad in first year, then BAM, second year we hit ‘em with biochemistry.

    Comment by danylmc — March 10, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  37. Surely a hologram can teach a double major like pottery and law.

    Comment by Simon — March 10, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

  38. Jeff @ 1:44: “You are right. Failing to check my spelling totally debunks my point.”

    Sorry, Jeff. Just thought that seeing as we were going to start commenting on the capabilities of named individuals on this post, we’d go the whole hog. To coin another cliche, if you don’t want to get dirty, don’t throw mud.

    As for your “point”, which seems to be that you think one particular lecturer in one particular institution isn’t very good at teaching … get out of here! It’s absolutely unheard of that different individuals may display different competencies with respect to different parts of their jobs, in the opinion of different people!! Or, to rephrase, wtf are you on about?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 10, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  39. Jeff Rosie @ 31 “at least I do not run a forum with postings that make no grammatical sense i.e. “This is truly is intelligent design..””

    I’m faltered you think it a forum! Perhaps you can send me a link to your forum? We can cross-link to this forum I know that offers real cheap meds.

    (Blog post now updated, thanks Jeff!)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 10, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  40. @danylmc

    Be glad you had Pondi and not Sharon, most people fail courses taught by her out of sheer frustration at not being able to either understand her or when they can, not actually getting anything relevant to the course out of her.

    Comment by Vic CompSci Student — March 10, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  41. Now perhaps we can get rid of courses in modern dance and creative writing.

    Comment by Tom's mate — March 10, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  42. Has anyone considered the value of the learning experience?

    No qualification should ever be thought of as a meal ticket.

    No government has ever had the mandate to say what qualifications are relevant to any cultures values.

    This is a government picking winners.

    I never thought the Nats would that.

    Sounds like social engineering to me.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — March 10, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  43. peterlepaysan,
    Nothing wrong with valuing the learning experience, but there is a limit to the more ridiculous freebies a government can give vs. the taxpayer’s beneficence. Learn weird stuff by all means but don’t expect the govt to pay for you.

    Comment by ropata — March 11, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  44. “Or, to rephrase, wtf are you on about?”

    Living in a glass tower of an office block and going slightly crazy, can you get your vitamin D from looking at the sky out a window?

    “It’s absolutely unheard of that different individuals may display different competencies with respect to different parts of their jobs, in the opinion of different people”

    The original statement was about teaching, not his research capabilities for which I have no clue about whether he is good or bad (although I am certain he knows his subject well – just inable to express it). And its not just my opinion, its the opinion of every single person I know who has had the experience of having him as a lecturer, which is quite a few considering I am surrounded by lawyers in my job surprise surprise and I had quite a few friends from law school.

    Sorry out of quotes, haven’t had my first coffee of the day yet.

    “I’m faltered you think it a forum”

    Touce

    Comment by Jeff Rosie — March 11, 2010 @ 9:07 am

  45. Surrounded by lawyers in a glass tower. Sounds like an undiscoverered circle of hell.

    Comment by David Williams — March 11, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  46. Jeff Rosie: I have just been alerted to your mention of my name in this thread. Your hearsay claim that I had been “put on notice” to clean up my act is patently false and was clearly demonstrated to be so in the ERA ruling in my favour. You need to check your facts as well as your spelling before you start disseminating malicious information about people in public forums.

    Comment by Paul G. Buchanan — March 19, 2010 @ 1:30 am


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