Improving Tertiary Student Outcomes in An Evidence-based Accountability Policy Framework

  • Nick Zepke
  • Linda Leach


Tertiary student retention, progression and achievement have become major policy issues in New Zealand, and the English-speaking world generally. Both the human and financial costs of non-completion have led to policy settings dedicated to improving student outcomes. After briefly sketching policy developments in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, the article examines the New Zealand government’s emerging policy framework for improving student outcomes. It suggests that concern for student learning and success is justified, but questions some of the underlying assumptions behind the policies. These, the article argues, focus on system-wide accountability using crude statistical indicators that can lead to sanctions. The paper uses retention research from overseas and New Zealand to test both assumption and criticism. The article suggests that evidence does not support a generic and punitive approach to improve student outcomes. It suggests a reframing of both accountability and research evidence to produce an alternative approach to student outcomes policy.


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Author Biographies

Nick Zepke
Linda Leach
How to Cite
ZEPKE, Nick; LEACH, Linda. Improving Tertiary Student Outcomes in An Evidence-based Accountability Policy Framework. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], n. 15, july 2005. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 28 oct. 2020. doi:


Post Secondary Education