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Polytechnic quality director Sue Thompson said the institution was "very pleased" with overall course completion rates, which had improved from 73.19% in 2009 to 80.08% last year.
Success rates for Maori students had improved by 14.7% in the same period to 70.65% last year, and rates for Pacific students had increased by 18.9%.
She said the polytechnic was also happy with the pass rates of most of its individual courses, but had warned the worst-performing courses those not tracking towards 40% or more completion rates by September 30, 2012, risked being closed.
The worst-performing course in terms of pass rates in 2011 was the certificate in computing level one, followed by the national certificate in business.
Ms Thompson said the completion rate for the certificate in computing level one was affected by the fact it was delivered at the Otago Regional Correctional Facility in Milton and, for that reason, the polytechnic believed it had a social obligation to continue offering it.
She said the courses with less than 50% completion rates - which made up 1.8% of total equivalent full-time students at the polytechnic - were under "targeted management for improvement".
The warning that poorly performing courses could be closed comes after the Tertiary Education Commission signalled it would be "looking seriously" at dropping funding for individual courses which had less than 40% completion rates, she said.
The polytechnic was not alone in having to improve courses with low pass rates, and the problem was "widespread" across the tertiary sector, with the possible exception of universities.
She said the polytechnic's overall pass rates compared well with other tertiary institutions.
Another area in which the polytechnic saw room for improvement was in the number of students who finished qualifications in the prescribed amount of time; for example, finishing a three-year degree in three years. Overall, the number completing qualifications in the prescribed time had declined from 55.53% in 2010 to 53.67% last year.
Courses with pass rates below 40% in 2011:
• Certificate in computing level 1 ... 13.11%
• National certificate in business ... 17.13%
• National certificate in computing level 2 ... 29.03%
• National certificate in motor industry (auto engineering) ... *35.52%
• National certificate in computing level 3 ... 37.91%
• National certificate in horticulture (advanced) Dunedin level 4 ... 38.67%
* No longer being offered