The introduction of a new standards-based secondary school assessment system, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), necessitated significant changes to the admissions processes for New Zealand universities, particularly for competitive-entry programmes such as medicine, engineering and pharmacy. Selection to such programmes was traditionally based on marks or grades in designated science subjects. Under NCEA, the emphasis changed to the number of credits obtained. This article uses the case of pharmacy at The University of Auckland to examine whether the admission criteria under NCEA are ‘fit for purpose’ in terms of academic progression during the degree. The negative consequences of students having to repeat courses are both academic and financial. Using data from six cohorts of NCEA entrants to the Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) degree, the findings of this study clearly suggest that the best predictor of course success, measured by not failing courses, is the NCEA Grade Point Average. This is at variance with the current practice for admission to pharmacy and other limited-entry degrees which rely on prerequisite courses and the number of NCEA Credits gained. These results suggest that a reappraisal of admissions processes for pharmacy and similar programmes is required.
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