This article examines the use of institutional research data on tertiary academic success of students in the first-year Biology program at the University of Canterbury in relation to their secondary school performance in English, Mathematics with Statistics, Biology and Chemistry. This study was commissioned by the School of Biological Sciences to examine the validity of the advice they gave to secondary students considering studying biology at university and was carried out as a joint venture between institutional researchers and departmental academics. We found that students with higher overall first-year university biology performance were more likely to also have taken Chemistry at secondary school. Controlling for overall performance, students taking both Chemistry and Biology as domains for the New Zealand University Entrance qualification (UE) did significantly better in two out of three first-year biology courses than those who had taken only one or neither subject as a domain. The extent of the advantage depended on the type of course; being greatest in the biochemistry-related course and least in ecology-related. We concluded that the advice the School of Biological Sciences had been giving students in secondary school as to the best preparation for (first- year) university studies in biology (emphasising the need to take both the subjects of Biology and Chemistry) was consistent with the institutional performance data of first-year students at university.
Journal of Institutional Research, 2011, 16 (2), pp. 26 - 41