It’s always interesting to look at completion rates for different qualification types and student groups.

The latest publication from NCVER VET qualification completion rates 2018, released in December 2020, is the first one looking at completions under total VET activity.

It’s about actual and projected completion rates too

NCVER’s publication, VET qualification completion rates 2018, looks at the actual completion rates for those who began studies in 2015 for up to the next four years. After that length of time, it is generally believed that students will have finished their chosen qualification. However, using some sneaky statistical techniques, NCVER estimates completion rates for later cohorts of students.

Given the sector’s flexibility with enrolment times, course durations etc. etc., the notion of a student ‘cohort’ is a much more challenging concept than it is for schools and higher education. Nevertheless, a picture emerges showing an overall completion rate of 41.4%. As usual, though, it is the sub-texts that are interesting.

For a start, those undertaking training package qualifications have higher completion rates than those taking accredited courses (42% vs 35.7%). Level matters too, with those completing Certificate IVs and IIIs having higher completion rates (47% & 44.5% respectively) than those taking Cert IIs (41.2%) or Diploma or higher (36%). Cert Is bring up the rear with completion rates of 30%.

Overall, projected completion rates trend up for those commencing in 2017 (45.6%) and 2018 (52%), but only time will tell us how well these  ‘projections’ reflect ‘reality’. Projected trends are interesting when we look at qualification level too. While projected completions rise year on year for all qualification types, the biggest projected increase is at the Diploma level or higher (an ‘actual’ of 36% based on commencements in 2015 to a projected 63.5% for those commencing in 2018!)

There are differences by type of student and provider too

For the 2015 student ‘cohort’, international students doing fee for service are the most likely to complete (58.3%), followed by those domestic students undertaking government funded training (46.6%). Completion rates for domestic fee for service students are relatively poorer (33.5%).

From a provider perspective, completion rates are highest for schools (48.3%) and enterprise providers (47.3%). Universities are relatively high at about 44% and private providers and TAFEs have completion rates of 41.2% and 40% respectively. Community Ed providers have a rate of about 39%, which – looking at another article in this issue – may be a reflection of the issues confronting their student cohort.

There are variations between the states and territories too, although these are not huge. The highest completion rates are in Queensland and Western Australia (around 43%), and lowest in Tasmania and South Australia (around 38-39%). Interestingly, it is offshore education that has a very high completion rate at around 67%.

Subject load pass rates are high

According to the publication:

“A subject load pass rate is the ratio of hours studied by students who passed their subject(s) to the total hours committed to by all students who passed, failed or withdrew from the corresponding subject(s).”

OK, that sounds complicated but, as the publication points out, qualifications that commenced in 2018 had subject load pass rates overall of 82.7% for all qualifications. The rates for training package qualifications were 83.6% and 72.6% for accredited qualifications.

In addition:

“By level of education, subject load pass rates were highest for certificate III qualifications (84.8%) followed by certificate II (83.5%) qualifications that commenced in 2018.”

NCVER notes that “subject load pass rates have remained steady over the last four years for all qualification levels with the exception of diploma or higher-level qualifications where rates increased by 8.7 percentage points between 2015 and 2018.”

NCVER has released a data slicer for those wishing to take a deeper dive into this stuff!