NEW ZEALAND: Universities raise entry requirements

Some of New Zealand's eight universities are raising their entry requirements to try to control student numbers.

The universities have found themselves in a difficult position since the recession struck because it prompted more people to seek a university education. But the government has made no change to its strict limits on enrolments.

Those limits mean the government subsidises only an agreed number of students at each institution and also discourages them from taking on too many unsubsidised students.

Some tertiary institutions, including universities, struggled to keep their enrolments within those limits last year, and this year several have already closed their enrolments for the rest of the year. Now they are looking at their entry requirements as a way of better managing their enrolments.

Traditionally, those requirements were based on University Entrance - a standard attained at secondary school and sufficient to gain entry to the vast majority of university courses.

However, three universities have adopted a new system that is also based on secondary school qualifications, but sets a benchmark higher than that required for University Entrance.

A fourth university is expected to raise its entry requirements and two others are still considering their options. Only two universities have so far confirmed they will stick with University Entrance as their entrance standard for 2011.

The universities that have adopted the points-based system say applicants with the bare minimum required for University Entrance can still get into their courses. In fact, one of them, Massey University, advises that most will be successful.

But the change represents a big shift for New Zealand's universities.

The Co-president of the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations, David Do, said the new entry requirements adopted by some universities would see able students turned away from university study.

Do said school qualifications were not a perfect indicator of ability for tertiary study.

The head of the country's secondary school teachers' union, Kate Gainsford, said some pupils would have been working for several years towards university using criteria that were now out of date.

She said New Zealand's standards-based secondary school qualifications provided a lot of detail and information about students and it was odd that universities were trying to reduce that detail to a single numeric score.