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Figures released by the University of Otago have revealed which subjects taught at the tertiary institution have the lowest and highest pass rates, with rates ranging from 100% to 68%.
The figures, released under the Official Information Act on the website www.fyi.org.nz, show the pass rates for undergraduate papers in the almost 100 subjects taught at the university.
They showed that four subjects, dentistry, design for technology, pathology, and forensic biology had 100% pass rates last year, with the worst performing subject, forensic and quantitative analysis having a 68% pass rate. Dentistry was the only subject which had a 100% pass rate in every year from 2009 to 2011.
Department of Computer Science head Associate Prof Brendan McCane whose department had some of the highest fail rates, said it appeared that subjects with high fail rates were all "very technical" and "inherently difficult".
Another reason why subjects taught by the department of computer science had higher fail rates was because computer programming was not taught very much at high schools.
"There is a large number of students who haven't had any programming experience, so they just don't know if they are any good at it and so many of them discover that it is quite difficult," he said.
Despite this, the department had been successful in improving pass rates, with computer science pass rates going from 69% in 2009 to 80% last year.
Otago university academic and international pro-vice-chancellor Prof Vernon Squire said the figures did not take into account a number of variables which affected pass rates.
"For example, entry into the health sciences professional programmes [including medicine and dentistry] is highly selective and those academic standards are continued throughout the course of study. Accordingly, it would be disappointing if the pass rates were not very high," Prof Squire said.
Otago figures by subject
Forensic and quantitative analysis with a 68% pass rateComputational modelling 72%Mathematics 75%Statistics, chemistry 78%
Design for technology, dentistry, pathology, forensic biology all on 100%.
Dental (Oral Health) 99%