Participation rates in tertiary education
What We Have FoundThe participation rate in tertiary education continued to decline in 2010. From 2005 to 2010 the participation rate has dropped from 14% to 12.1%. The rate of decline has slowed since 2008.
Date Updated: March 2012
Age-standardised participation rates in tertiary education.
Why This Is ImportantThe tertiary education sector is a diverse sector. Its scope ranges from informal non-assessed community courses in schools through to undergraduate degrees and advanced, research-based postgraduate degrees. It provides pathways for a diverse range of learners, from school leavers to workers, the unemployed to students from overseas, and to those pursuing an interest or hobby or more social interaction. It has a diverse range of learning objectives and is influenced by a very diverse set of people and factors.
Changes in participation and achievement in tertiary education are indicators of the extent to which New Zealanders are developing the skills needed for a modern knowledge economy. New Zealand's lifelong approach to tertiary learning, relatively open access to enrolment, and easy access to student loans, have tended to increase the number of students with a focus on part-time course-based study, and those trying to combine work with study. This compares to other countries which have higher academic entry requirements, more full-time study, and less access to student support.
How We Are GoingThe participation rate in tertiary education continued to decline in 2010. The rate of decline has slowed since 2008. Between 2005 and 2008, the participation rate dropped from 14% to 12.5%. From 2008 to 2010 the participation rate dropped from 12.5% to 12.1%. It is estimated that 12.1% percent of the population aged 15 and over participated in some type of formal tertiary study at some time in 2010. The participation rate in tertiary study by females has been consistently higher than the male participation rate. In 2010, the female tertiary participation rate was 13.4% of the female population aged 15 and over, compared to a male participation rate of 10.7%. This gender difference in tertiary participation between the male and female populations has been increasing for some years. From 2006 to 2010, the gap has increased from 15.1% to 25.3%.
The Māori participation rate in tertiary education has increased by more than double since 1998, such that Māori now participate in tertiary education at a much higher rate than non-Māori. After adjusting for differences in age distributions, 16.7% of Māori aged 15 and over participated in tertiary education in 2010. Participation rates in 2010 for the other ethnic groups are Asian (12.1%), European/Pākehā (11.2%), and Pasifika (12.3%).
When broken down by level of study, Māori currently have substantially higher rates at non-degree level, while non-Māori participation rates are highest at degree level and above. Proportionately more Asians are studying for tertiary qualifications than other ethnic groups at degree and all levels of post-graduate study, while European/Pākehā have the second highest rates of participation at degree level study and above.
Participation rates in non-degree courses have generally fallen since 2005. Participation in level 1-3, and level 4 Certificates, among the population aged 15 and over, has decreased by 36% and 18% respectively from 2005-2010. The participation rate for Diplomas has increased by 2% over this period. This decline may be attributable to changes in funding policies in 2005 that focussed on reducing the number of low quality or low relevance qualifications being offered below degree level.
In contrast, there has been slow growth in participation rates at the level of bachelors degree. Between 2005 and 2010, the proportion of the population aged 15 and over undertaking bachelors degree study has increased slightly from 3.5% to 3.7%. During the same time period there have been more school leavers eligible to attend university. The participation rates for post-graduate study from 2005-2010 have increased for doctorates (from 0.13% to 0.15%) and honours degrees/post-graduate certificates/post-graduate diplomas (from 0.57% to 0.71%). The participation rates for graduate certificates/diplomas and masters degrees have both decreased slightly from 2005-2010.
- Ministry of Education (2010). Facing the Challenge: Tertiary Education Strategy Monitoring 2010. Wellington: Ministry of Education
- Ministry of Education (2012). Profile & Trends 2010: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector. Wellington: Ministry of Educatiion