How does achievement at school affect achievement in tertiary education?

How does achievement at school affect achievement …
01 May 2008
How does achievement at school affect achievement …
01 May 2008

This report explores the relationship between academic achievement at secondary school and first-year achievement in tertiary education. The analysis uses a measure known as 'expected percentile' and school qualification to explain the performance of school leavers in their first year in tertiary education.


The report explored the following questions:

  • How are the characteristics of performance in senior secondary National Qualifications Framework-based qualifications related to achievement in tertiary study?
  • How well does expected percentile predict achievement in tertiary study?
  • How much influence does school achievement have on tertiary achievement, compared with other school or tertiary study factors, or demographic characteristics?

Key Results

The study found support for the relationship between school achievement, using expected percentile as the measurement for school achievement, and first-year tertiary achievement.

The relationship was strongest for those enrolling in degrees, and less so for those enrolling below degree level.

For school leavers enrolling in degrees, expected percentile explained a quarter of the likelihood of them passing all their first-year courses.

More significantly, the mean first-year course pass rate for school leavers enrolling in degrees can be determined almost entirely from expected percentile.

However, its influence on first-year attrition is much smaller, and is secondary to study load, and other factors untested in this study.

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