Discussions on Q26Q26 What are the pros and cons of different quality assurance arrangements for universities to those for ITPs, wānanga, and PTEs?
One of the major cons of the quality assurance arrangement for universities through the CUAP is the potential for divergence of certain non-professional programmes from similar programmes in other English-speaking countries.
An explicit comparison of NZ's BSc and BA degrees with those in other English-speaking countries, including the UK and the US would make the quality assurance arrangement for Universities through CUAP more meaningful and internationally synchronised. To ensure graduating students are up to speed with international standards and expectations in a fast-changing world, it is equally important that curricula are revisited periodically (minimally every 5-10 years) to ascertain whether they continue to meet these objectives. Let us focus for example on the course requirements for a Bachelor's degree in Statistics/Mathematics in the US (regionally accredited programmes) and the UK. See the following URLs:
- University of Minnesota, Statistics BS/BA
- Case Western Reserve University, BS in Statistics
- University of Oxford, BSc in Mathematics/Statistics
- Lancaster University, BSc in Statistics (hons)
Unfortunately, students from NZ (from more than one University) can complete their BSc (Hons) in Statistics with no course work in multivariate Calculus or Linear Algebra. Similarly BSc (Hons) students in Mathematics can complete their degree without doing a course in advanced Analysis for example (usually considered a requirement in the US and UK). A systematic comparison of various non-professional majors in NZ with their counterparts in the US or UK may shed further light on the extent of this problem.
Such students are typically asked to repeat up to a full year of undergraduate courses upon conditional acceptance into PhD programmes in the US (case studies will be provided upon request). Fortunately, good students do take more than the minimal required set of courses and the best students routinely go to the top 10 Universities in the world for further studies. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most students who need more structure and guidance regarding the required coursework.
At the very least, we need to let our students know what combination of courses are equivalent to a BS programme in Mathematics/Statistics at any accredited US State University or to a BSc (hons) programme at a typical UK University. Therefore an explicit comparison of NZ's BSc and BA degrees in terms of the defining coursework of a major such as Statistics or Mathematics with those in other English-speaking countries, including the UK and the US, would make the quality assurance arrangement for Universities through CUAP more meaningful to the student. Further, re-evaluating course curricula periodically (minimally every 5-10 years) in a comparative international context, will ensure NZ students receive the most relevant and up to date training in their field of study, in this fast-changing world.
The following natural questions arise:
How can such degrees in NZ Universities be considered to be quality assured in an international sense? How can the system be encouraged to compare and contrast its quality assured degree with those from the UK or the US in an independent and unbiased manner?
The reasons for the perpetuation of such "quality-assured" programmes in NZ that continue to diverge significantly from similar programmes in the US/UK (in some cases, including BS/BSC(hons) in Mathematics/Statistics) will be discussed as part of other questions. Some such reasons include:
- systematic and gradual grade inflation aimed at easing of standards to be more inclusive of a larger number of students and/or a broader range of student backgrounds (in terms of prerequisites) and thereby increasing the flow of EFTS into a programme,
- requiring courses in linear algebra or multivariate calculus from another course code (possibly in another Department or even College within the University), say Mathematics, may lead to perceived loss of EFTS to the major's course code or Department, say Statistics (See Question 70 on funding shift inside a TEI),
- pressure for course/degree/qualification completion to justify course offerings and
- the phenomenon of personally-validated curricula, whereby a few strong personalities within a Faculty, who personally went through Bachelor's programmes outside the major field of study in question or ones without international standards/accreditation, strongly oppose any democratic effort to bring courses up to international standards, to some of the currently diverged programmes in NZ.
See Discussion on Q45.
Also see discussion and comment on Joyce says migration not education will close the IT Skills gap.