Relevant and Irreverent News

Surprise Announcement

In a surprise press release the CEO of the Tertiary Education Commission today announced the replacement of the current SAC3+ funding mechanism. The Equivalent Full-Time Student (EFTS) metric will be cease to be in effect from 1 July, to be superseded by Weighted Learning Hours (WLH).

In light of our focus on learning hours, and to ensure value for the taxpayer’s investment,” said the CEO, “we are returning to the funding mechanism used successfully by the Polytechnic sector until 1995. This was based on Weighted Student Hours.”

The press release also announced that the concept of investment plans, as a means of allocating funding, was to be replaced by a tool being developed by the Lotteries Commission. “As there is already a high degree of uncertainty for TEOs in anticipating funding, we thought this should be formalised” states the release.

SAC1&2 and RPL

TEC’s funding conditions are quite clear that you are not to use funding to deliver stuff to students which those students have already achieved. Fair enough. It’s just that the SAC1&2 Funding Conditions don’t actually spell this out. It is true that the table of contents lists section 5.9 as “Recognised prior learning” but, if you turn to that section you will see this. Something altogether different.

5.9         Students with prior qualifications

(a)    Up to 10% of your enrolments for qualifications funded from the SAC1&2 (Competitive) Fund can have already achieved a qualification at Level 2 or higher on the NZQF (a prior qualification)………

Of course I have no doubt if you did claim funding for RPL, TEC would be upset and rightly so. My point is though, that notwithstanding the rather embarrassing letter of 1 March from TEC to providers notifying changes to wording, the Funding Conditions are still riddled with typos, ambiguities, redundant sections, and strange sections about “Confirmed Enrolments”.


New Models of Tertiary Education

There can’t be many people who can honestly claim to have read the Productivity Commission’s new magnum opus “New Models of Tertiary Education”. I’m certainly not one, but I did search the document for any evidence that the Commission has recognised that inadequate and sometimes inaccurate data is being collected by the agencies responsible for managing the tertiary education sector.

I did find the following comment which quickened my pulse, especially the last sentence. “Good quality assurance and good information both become more important in a tertiary education system with fewer controls on inputs, more at stake for providers, and more empowered student consumers. It is important that agency roles and responsibilities in these regards are clear.”

And I did find some mention of using data analytics to trigger academic and pastoral interventions, and making smarter use of data especially in relation to collecting increasingly reliable and relevant performance data. All good stuff, but I searched in vain for mention of a proper replacement of our old friend the Single Data Return.

This elephant still sits stubbornly in the room meaning, ironically, that the Commission itself would not have had all the information it required to do its job.

TEC Funding Conditions/Confusions

TEC circulated a consolidated Funding Confirmation Guide in February 2017. This brought together the material that had originally been included in the funding approval letters sent out before Christmas.

This seemed like a good and useful idea but there is just one hitch. Either inadvertently or deliberately a number of changes had been made in the February version. Here’s an apparently trivial example relating to the definition of a valid domestic student.

Here’s the original:

(i)      you are satisfied that the student is capable of completing the academic requirements of the programme of study or training in which the student is enrolled; or

(ii)    you have ensured that the student has a school exemption certificate from the Ministry of Education; or

And here’s the changed version:

(i)      you are satisfied that the student is capable of completing the academic requirements of the programme of study or training in which the student is enrolled; and

(ii)    you have ensured that the student has a school exemption certificate from the Ministry of Education; and

Of course it may not be so trivial when you are audited. There are other anomalies in the consolidated document.

Rather a lot of qualifications

The UK has announced changes to technical education. An article in The Guardian provides details.

One change will be to replace the current 13,000 qualification with 15. Another will be to increase the number of hours students train by 50%.

Indicative Single Data Return

The Indicative Single Data Return (SDR) is due to be reported via STEO by Wednesday 8 March with a nominal extract date of 1 March. The return is to include enrolments and student data for all enrolments in your student management system whether the students have started their studies or not. In theory, then, if you were to have processed enrolments for a second semester these records should be included in the return.

No outcome data is reported via the Indicative SDR.

At the time that the Indicative return was proposed there was much debate about the return date, largely focused on whether the data being collected would really be useful to “to give early indicators of demand shifts and trends that may impact vote management and policy impacts.”

Students at most TEIs are able to cancel or change their enrolments well into March. For many PTEs obtaining NZQA and TEC approvals for new qualifications has been a lengthy process with delays that mean enrolments cannot be processed until after 8 March.

So is the Indicative return a useful policy tool or just another compliance burden dreamed by policy analysts?

Welcome to Mercury Advice

I will be posting periodically brief articles based on material published by the tertiary agencies and my own observations of working in the sector. Hopefully the articles will either amuse or inform you. Please let me know.

Let’s start with something that is, if anything, rather sad. You may be aware that it is possible to add a person to the National Student Index (NSI) and assign to them a gender of “U” for “Unknown”. Similarly Internal Affairs provides for three genders to be used on passports, with “X” being “Indeterminate/Unspecified”.

A problem arises when you have to report gender via the Single Data Return, which provides only for “M” and “F”. But, in order for a student record to be reported successfully through the SDR, the gender value in the SDR file must match the gender value in the NSI. If the values don’t match there will be an SDR validation error and you will not be able to submit your SDR.

When asked about the problem the Ministry of Education came up with a novel solution.

If the leaner prefers to use X [i.e. “U”] gender, as workaround providers will have to change the  learner’s gender to either Male or Female in NSI and also use the same gender accordingly for SDR reporting.”