Many tertiary students are doing badly in low-level courses, according to an industry watchdog report out today.
Bridging courses that certify learning areas such as numeracy and literacy make up a third of the tertiary sector and are available to students who aim to go on to higher education.
But the courses have come under fire in a report from tertiary watchdog Ako Aotearoa.
The paper describes the completion rate for these learners as poor, saying of those it surveyed less than 40% of students passed their course.
The report says only a third of students go on to pursue a higher qualification - a key rationale for publicly funded courses.
Ako Aotearoa said half of all tertiary providers need to shape up, teach smarter and focus on student results from the day they start.
"We're not very good sharing good practice through the New Zealand system - it's too fragmented, too many people," said director Peter Coolbear.
The students' union agrees, saying education providers need to improve.
"You know, get your act together, lift your game, and it's something that absolutely needs to happen," Union of Students' Association president Peter Hodkinson said.
The Government has recently committed tens of millions of dollars to get disengaged youth into education but questions are being asked about whether the courses are working.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told ONE News he is concerned about the failures and low pass rates.
He said the Government is already making changes, such as incentivising providers to make sure students complete their courses.
Joyce said funding will be taken off educators who do not deliver.