Non-traditional ways of achieving a business qualification are becoming more common and popular internationally. In this case study from New Zealand, a joint delivery model including full credit between two higher education institutions, a vocational-based polytechnic and a traditional university, shows the strong foundations that can be built to assist a diverse student group moving into higher levels of study.
A representative sample of graduates (2009-2014) from the New Zealand Diploma in Business taught at a polytechnic who then progressed to a business or management degree with a partner university were surveyed to gauge student expectations and experiences of both study environments. In particular, the survey focused on how the diploma programme assists the students in transitioning from a vocational based introductory programme to an academic business degree. Graduates’ employment outcomes were then compared to their initial enrollment expectations and key contributors to success were identified.

The paper describes the findings from the study and discusses the implications for those who are managing and teaching the qualifications at both levels. The overall purpose of the inquiry is to ensure that the quality of the student experience is enhanced and the teaching and learning delivery options offered through this inter-institutional approach are aligned to the needs and expectations of the learners. Of particular interest are the comments from students around both content knowledge and skills generated through their studies that have directly contributed to their current work role and the connection they make between the polytechnic and university experience and their longer term career aspirations. Key skills graduates gained as outcomes of the NZ Diploma in Business qualification were identified relative to their current employment.

Other findings discussed include: Maori graduates are less likely to be employed and less likely to continue on to degree studies. Male graduates are less likely to use the diploma skills in their employment. Lower age group students rate the diploma more highly for preparing them for degree studies and in assisting them with completion of their degree than do mature students.

Overall the majority of participants were highly satisfied with the learning foundation that they built as a result of transitioning from a diploma programme into a fully-fledged university environment.