Skip to main content

To better understand the tertiary education landscape, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and the Lab completed a research discovery to identify two things - What people found challenging, and what opportunities lay in the experience of entering or re-entering the tertiary education system.

Enrolling in tertiary study is not straight-forward

The tertiary education system assumes that learning is a linear path when in fact change and interruption are natural and will occur, especially for the youngest students. Together with TEC, we found several challenges people faced when entering tertiary education These include the quality and relevance of the information, the process they follow, and what stage they are at in their life.

The final output of the discovery was a research report and it recommends a number of opportunities for the education sector to explore further.

Approach and findings

During the prediscovery exercise we focused on the needs of the consumer and the information and services they access. We interviewed and workshopped with 55 students and subject matter experts, and reviewed a wealth of research. We looked at opportunities where things could be done differently.

We focused on four areas specific to the needs of someone wanting to enter tertiary education. We looked at what might add value for both students, and their supporters and influencers. We have an opportunity to learn from, and design for, what are typical changes during our lives.

  1. “What do I need to know and understand to help me make the best choice for now and for my future?” Students and their supporters (family, peers, teachers etc) need to plan and decide their pathway into tertiary education. Not only for what suits their present life but also their future aspirations. Information relevant to the student’s life, aspirations, personality, and how different study options affect life outcomes, will aid this process.

  2. “What and when do I need to share information about myself and what I want to do?”

Students need to provide the right information, from the right place at the right time. To increase efficiency and lessen unnecessary effort, we can remove duplicate requests for existing information. Providing timely and actionable information about key choices and events will also help create certainty for students and their supporters so they don’t miss opportunities.

  1. “Change is normal, and should be easy”. A typical student’s circumstances change all the time. It means a change in the course of study is highly likely. It happens more often for first-time students and those transitioning from secondary school to tertiary education. Despite this, changing courses often results in significant personal and financial consequences for them. We should recognise that change is normal and natural, and support students through these changes.

  2. “Feeling included and supported is key to better outcomes.” Students who feel included and supported typically do better during study and after. There is an opportunity to raise and recognise students’ feelings of connectedness, acceptance, safety, and recognition of their abilities. We could also adapt teaching styles and mediums that help students and their supporters make the best study choices.

What was the research used for

TEC used the research for:

  • the Careers System Strategy
  • Ministry of Education’s refresh of the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) for 2020
  • informing their existing and future operating policy and strategy with regards to investment and delivery in tertiary education help them provide meaningful careers advisory services for New Zealanders.