Single Data Return – NOT

Those of us with elephantine memories will remember the advent of the Single Data Return which was glibly sold on the basis that it was going to be the one return that rules us all. The grand idea was that there would be one, and only one, reporting mechanism and that would satisfy all data collection and monitoring requirements on the part of all agencies with an interest in the Tertiary Sector.

Even now in 2018 the SDR Manual misleadingly states “The SDR provides one central point for the collection, processing and delivery of information from TEOs to education agencies.”

Over the years other reporting mechanism have been implemented. How do you report to NZQA, how do you report to StudyLink, did you use the Electronic Receipting System (ERS) developed and discarded by TEC? And now we all suffer from dealing with TEC’s Workspace 2 – the kind of reporting mechanism that was presumably designed by a spreadsheet enthusiast and is destined to be replaced.

In fairness to TEC in 2009 work was started on a replacement to the SDR. This was the Tertiary Learner Event Collection (“TLEC”) which, as the project faltered, then became the Tertiary Learner Event Project (“TLEP”), only to be abandoned in 2013 after $2.7 million had been expended and it had to be written off.

The ill-fated UIP (Unfunded International Provider) return was cobbled together from 2016 onwards by the Ministry of Education for a single purpose and without – by the Ministry’s admission – any input from TEC; although NZQA airily told us it would become a “Universal Record of Achievement”. That project must have cost well over $1 million to develop and has ongoing costs.

In addition to the millions of dollars being expended by the tertiary agencies there is of course also the compliance cost to the TEOs.

Not to be left out in the cold TEC at the end of 2016 started to hint at a replacement for the SDR to be developed from 2017 and ready for use in 2020. Several individuals from the sector were asked if they would be open to consultation in 2017. They weren’t asked and have heard nothing since.

But anyway, it did seem like it might be time to check with TEC what is occurring. So, I asked “Please can you provide me with information on any plans to replace the Single Data Return?” This very polite request – using the Official Information Act – has so far elicited the following response.

“Thank you for your email of 19 June 2018 requesting the following information:

please can you provide me with information on any plans to replace the Single Data Return?

Your request necessitates a search through a large quantity of information. In addition, the consultations necessary to make a decision on the request are such that a proper response cannot reasonably be made within the original time limit. Therefore, the TEC is extending the time limit for responding to your request  by 15 working days. The TEC will respond to your request as soon as possible but no later than 7 August 2018.”

I almost felt guilty that I could be the cause of such consternation, but I guess I’ll get over that. The scary bit about the response are these words: “the consultations necessary to make a decision on the request”.

The cynic in me, and past experience, suggests that they just mean that TEC needs another 15 days to construct a response along the lines that the information must be withheld because of commercial confidentiality; or to notify me of the vast cost to TEC of compiling a response. A cost I could not cover.

Somehow, I doubt though that they can use the cost argument since my original request elicited an invitation from TEC to meet for a briefing. The meeting would take an hour I was informed. You will understand that I had to turn down this offer because a meeting of this type with a verbal exchange of information has, in the past, proved to be far from satisfactory.

It is one thing to say something, and another to write it.

2018 Funding Approval Conditions – Māori and Pasifika Trades Training reviewed

I have reviewed Māori and Pasifika Trades Training conditions and they are identical with the 2017 conditions.

2018 Funding Approval Conditions – SAC1&2 Non-Competitive Reviewed

Please email me if you would like a copy of my review. If you are to use SAC1&2 Non-Competitive funding in 2018 I suggest that you read the review. There are some interesting differences between the 2017 and 2018 conditions, plus one rather obvious TEC whoopsie; such fun.

2018 Funding Approval Conditions – ILN Reviewed

  • I  have reviewed the 2018 Intensive Literacy and Numeracy (ILN) conditions and they are identical with the 2017 conditions. Yippee!

2018 Funding Approval Conditions – SAC1&2 Competitive Reviewed

Please email me if you would like a copy of my review. If you are to use SAC1&2 Competitive funding in 2018 I suggest that you read the review. There are some interesting differences between the 2017 and 2018 conditions.

 

2018 Funding Approval Conditions – YG Reviewed

Following up on my previous post I have now reviewed TEC’s 2018 funding conditions for Youth Guarantee.

Please email me if you would like a copy of my review. If you are to use Youth Guarantee funding in 2018 I strongly suggest that you read the review. There are some very significant differences between the 2017 and 2018 conditions.

2018 Funding Approvals

Māori and Pasifika Trades Training reviewed and found to be unchanged since 2017. 2017-12-05.

TEC has started to release 2018 funding approvals and is to be congratulated for doing so much earlier than in previous years. Each funding approval letter comes with a set of funding conditions. You will recall that the fund-specific funding conditions for 2017 were a bit of a mess with inconsistent wording, botched cutting and pasting between funds, typos and other problems.

One hopes that the 2018 conditions are more reliable but one may be disappointed. To date I have seen just one set of conditions for one specific fund (SAC 3+) and that contains an error which will require TEC to send out a new set to all the affected TEOs, plus there are a couple of other oddities which may cause someone grief.

If you would like to receive details of the problems, please send me an email.

I am keen to review the conditions for other funds, so if you care to send me just the fund-specific conditions (usually Appendix 2) for other funds (Youth Guarantee, SAC1&2 Competitive, etc.) I will compare it with the 2017 equivalent and make my comparison available to you. Don’t send me the other sections of the funding approval document: Funding Confirmation, Appendix 1, the Base Funding Confirmation, or Organisation-Specific Conditions.

I will update this post with each fund that I have reviewed, so stay tuned in.

Funds Reviewed to Date

  • SAC3+ (Student Achievement Component – Provision at Level 3)
  • YG (Youth Guarantee)
  • SAC1&2 Competitive
  • Intensive Literary and Numeracy (ILN) reviewed and found to be unchanged since 2017.
  • SAC1&2 Non-Competitive
  • Māori and Pasifika Trades Training reviewed and found to be unchanged since 2017.

Free Post School Education

The Labour Party Manifesto included the following item: “Labour will progressively introduce 3 years of free post-school education, allowing access to university, polytechnic or on-job training for young New Zealanders and those who have not studied before.

Now that Labour is forming a government one assumes that tucked away in a dark room on The Terrace TEC already has a team preparing material to implement the policy. This notwithstanding Labour’s view that “the Tertiary Education Commission is not operating as it was envisaged by Labour when it was established in 2003.” After all who else is going to get the policy implemented for 2018, and I assume that providers are already being asked by prospective students “Do I have to pay fees next year?

The first thing that TEC team will need to do is get guidance from the new Minister on the details of the policy. The various pre-election documents published by Labour have little detail and actually raise some pretty interesting questions. Here are just four.

  • Are PTEs covered? The Manifesto says “allowing access to university, polytechnic or on-job training for young New Zealanders and those who have not studied before” but another document published by Labour states “Accelerating the three years’ free policy, starting with one year fees free full-time equivalent for everyone starting tertiary education or training for the first time from 1 January 2018”.
  • What exactly does “fees free” mean? For example are compulsory course costs covered, or just tuition fees?
  • What is the precise definition of “formal post-school education” in the sentence “Labour will ensure that 3 years of free post-school education is available to adult learners who have not participated in formal post-school education in the past”?
  • What are 3 years? Are we talking about three years (as a period of time) or three EFTS of study being free to cover part-time study?

Anyhow, being a helpful soul, I would suggest that the TEC team consider what George Bernard Shaw said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” History is this case being National’s 1991 Study Right policy implemented in extreme haste and at great cost. Why, there was even a field in the SDR Course Enrolment file called “STUDYRT”. Maybe this field could be resuscitated?

To Fee or Not to Fee?

This question doesn’t have quite the same ontological weight as Hamlet’s but it is a question that many providers face when rolling out new qualifications – and there is a fair bit of that happening nowadays.

When getting TEC approval for a new qualification for which fees are charged the provider must submit tuition and compulsory course cost fee amounts for approval. The fees are matched by TEC against some as yet unpublished benchmarks.

What we do know is that “Courses are assessed individually and course fee benchmarks are in turn determined individually using NZSCED code, Funding Category Code and Proposed EFTS provided.  We consider if fees proposed are consistent with fees charged for existing similar courses offered by other TEOs on a dollar per EFTS basis.  Generally, fees proposed should be in the middle of the range of fees charged by other TEOs.”

Yeah right! Have a look at the table below.

This is an actual qualification and the figures are the actual figures for two actual providers. I guess that that TEC’s process actually involves a wheel of fortune rather than any well thought out and equitable assessment.