Ōritetanga – tertiary success for everyone

Ōritetanga – tertiary success for everyone

Last updated 4 March 2022
Last updated 4 March 2022

Mā te mahi ngātahi, ka angitū – success requires all of us to play our part.

Learner success is essential to a successful and thriving New Zealand

The Tertiary Education Commission's (TEC's) vision is “A resilient, prosperous New Zealand – where every person has the skills, knowledge and confidence to create a fulfilling life”. Education is key to ensuring the economic and social wellbeing of all New Zealanders. This requires a tertiary education system which is fit for purpose, and is able to respond to the needs of all learners.

Currently, the tertiary education system does not work well for many Māori, Pacific, disabled and low-income learners.

These learner groups all face barriers that affect their participation in and successful completion of tertiary study. There are well-publicised flow-on impacts for Māori, Pacific and disabled communities, and for Aotearoa New Zealand’s economy and society.

Our goal is to achieve system level equity in terms of patterns of participation and achievement for all tertiary learners. To achieve this we need to take a holistic approach to learner success. To create a tertiary education system that works for everyone, we must all play our part.

A tertiary education system driven to achieve equity

The new Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) and National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP) place learners and their whānau at the centre of the education system.

Responding to the objectives of the TES and NELP, the TEC Board has agreed on a strategy that enables us to achieve our vision and to drive change across the entire system.

Ōritetanga – equity – is a key pillar of the TEC’s strategy, which focuses on shaping a more responsive system. We have developed a learner success work programme that supports our organisation to realise this goal.

We need transformational change to achieve a system-level shift

Developing a tertiary system that works well for all learners requires coordination across a wide range of areas. Our learner success programme was developed to ensure all parts of the system work to support success:

  • Learners and the people who help them make decisions, have the support and experiences to make good educational and career choices.
  • Communities (e.g. Māori and Pacific communities), businesses and industry have an empowered voice in shaping the system.
  • The system consists of capable, focused and accountable TEOs (tertiary education organisations), and sector leadership at all levels.
  • Our investment processes support and incentivise good outcomes for all learners.
  • We have the internal capability and external relationships to drive change.

The problems are systemic, entrenched and long-standing. Achieving the solutions will also take time. It can be done if we take a whole-of-system approach to becoming truly learner-centric.

TEC will need to use all of its system-wide levers                  

To achieve system-level transformation, we will need to use our entire suite of levers deliberately and intentionally. This includes sending strong signals to the sector and wider stakeholders that learner success is a priority. There are four focus areas:

  • Investment needs to provide the right incentives to all parts of the system to focus on the needs of learners.
  • Monitoring needs to be targeted and meaningful. There should be consequences for poor TEO performance.
  • Careers information and tools need to redress the information imbalance in the system and allow learners and their whānau to make the best education choices.
  • The TEC needs to lead by example and be more learner-centric, equity-minded and culturally affirming.

An equity-minded operating model: supporting TEO capability

Developing sector capability in learner success requires a holistic focus on leadership, data and interventions

TEOs that have made significant progress in improving achievement for under-served groups of learners, such as Georgia State University in the US, have used a “learner success” approach.

Evidence shows that TEOs that want to make a difference for learners need to shift from individual interventions and pockets of focus to a systemic (i.e. all of organisation) learner focus in all aspects of their operations. A holistic approach is required, involving several key elements:

  • strong leadership within TEOs and in relationships with key partners (including employers, family, whānau and iwi)
  • systems and processes designed with the learner in mind, including teaching and learning environments
  • a “guided pathways” approach that makes it clear to learners before they enrol what they need to do to gain a qualification and where their qualification will lead them, and
  • data and technology solutions that can be used to appropriately track learner progress.

All of these components need to be in place to significantly improve learner success.

Putting the learner at the centre of the Framework

Based on robust evidence, we have developed and tested a Learner Success Framework for Aotearoa New Zealand. This Framework has been updated as a result of feedback from partner TEOs and project evaluation.

The Framework is essentially a blueprint for change. It provides TEOs with an approach for putting learners at the heart of what they do, and is designed to address the biases and disparities that have resulted in the tertiary education system under-serving specific learner groups.

  • Learn more about the Learner Success Framework – an approach TEOs can use and adapt, to embed new processes to become more learner-focused