New Zealand Qualifications Authority: Monitoring the quality of polytechnic education.

The tertiary education system is a significant national asset and is recognised as being of crucial importance to New Zealand’s social and economic development.

Over recent years, there have been a number of concerns about how tertiary education institutions are managed and the quality of the education they provide.

I have initiated several inquiries into aspects of tertiary education sector entities and maintain a strong interest in the operations of this very important sector.

The Education Act 1989 (the Act) provides for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to be primarily responsible for the quality assurance of polytechnics. Quality assurance functions include approving courses, accrediting providers to deliver courses, and auditing providers against academic quality standards. As allowed by the Act, NZQA has delegated its quality assurance functions for 19 of the country’s 20 polytechnics to an independent agency, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics Quality (ITP Quality). A division within NZQA audits the other polytechnic.

I expected that, having delegated these quality assurance functions, NZQA would satisfy itself that polytechnics are providing quality education. In examining how NZQA met this expectation, my attention focused on the academic audits of polytechnics carried out by ITP Quality. These audits are valuable, as they report on the quality of the education polytechnics are providing. I found that copies of the reports on these audits are sent to NZQA, but are not reported to the Board of NZQA.

In my view, NZQA needs to adopt a more strategic approach to the use of these reports and to consider how they could be used for a range of purposes. These purposes include gaining a better understanding of the quality of the education polytechnics are providing and informing NZQA’s quality assurance role in the polytechnic sector.

I have made five recommendations. NZQA has advised that these recommendations are in accord with the direction it is heading under its new divisional structure. I outline the actions it has taken in Appendix 3. ITP Quality has also advised that it supports the recommendations. I am pleased with this outcome.

I wish to thank the Chairperson of NZQA and the staff at NZQA and at ITP Quality for the assistance they provided during my audit.


K B Brady
Controller and Auditor-General

14 May 2007