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Profile & Trends 2011: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector

Publication Details

This is edition 14 in an annual series on the tertiary education sector.

The key findings for 2011 were:

  • 456,000 students were enrolled in formal study programmes in 2011, including 48,100 international students.
  • There were more young people taking on higher-level tertiary qualifications in 2011, while enrolments in non-degree qualifications decreased due mainly to fewer enrolments by people aged 25 years and over.
  • International student numbers are likely to rise further in 2012.

Author(s): Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, Ministry of Education

Date Published: November 2012

Key tertiary education trends

Outcomes of tertiary education

Tertiary education is associated with better jobs and lives

Young people benefit the most from a high-performing tertiary education system as the return on their investment in tertiary study is greater than for those who delay study. Improvements in system performance, such as higher qualification completion rates, are associated with higher earnings as a premium is paid for completion of a tertiary qualification. People’s earnings in the years following tertiary study are also influenced by their industry of employment, field of study and the level of study. For example, in 2011, the earnings of people with a bachelors or higher qualification were 65 percent higher than for people with no qualification, up from 63 percent in 2010. People with tertiary qualifications are also more likely to be employed than people without a qualification.

New Zealand’s population becomes more qualified

There are now more New Zealanders with a tertiary qualification than without one. In 2011, the proportion with a tertiary qualification increased to 52 percent, up from 50 percent in 2010. The proportion of people without any qualification reduced, while the proportion with a bachelors or higher qualification continued its steady upwards path.

The proportion without a qualification was 24 percent in 2011, compared to 27 percent in 2001. The proportion of the population aged 15 years and over with a bachelors degree or higher qualification was 17 percent in 2011, compared to only 11 percent in 2001.

The proportions with other tertiary qualifications and only a school qualification have been stable in recent years, at 34 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

Gender and age differences among the tertiary qualified

The proportion of the population holding a bachelors or higher qualification is higher for women than for men. Men continue to be more likely than women to hold tertiary certificates and diplomas. This difference reflects changes in the tertiary education participation trends over the last 15 years, with more women completing bachelors qualifications and the expansion of industry training which led to higher proportions of men gaining certificates and diplomas.

Statistics and research

Profile & Trends has an associated set of statistical tables available on the Education Counts website – www.educationcounts.govt.nz. The statistics in the web tables are used to inform the analysis in Profile & Trends. The tables provide comprehensive coverage of the key trends in the sector’s performance: transitions from school to tertiary education, resourcing, financials, human resources, research, student support, Youth Guarantee, Foundation-Focused Training Opportunities, Secondary-Tertiary Alignment Resource, trades academies, tertiary high schools, industry training, adult and community education, enrolments, participation rates, completion rates, retention rates, progression rates, and outcomes.

More tertiary education material, including information on tertiary education providers, students and other relevant information, can be found on the Education Counts website and on the websites of the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission.

The statistics in Profile & Trends 2011 are for the year ended 31 December 2011 and have been sourced from the Ministry of Education, unless otherwise stated. Some of the most recent changes in tertiary education are separately summarised for the various parts of the sector.

Young people

The proportion of New Zealanders aged 25 to 34 years with a bachelors or higher qualification has continued to expand over the last decade, reaching 30 percent in 2011 (Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1 New Zealanders aged 25 to 34 years with a bachelors or higher qualification

Figure 1.1 New Zealanders aged 25 to 34 years with a bachelors or higher qualification

The increase in the proportion of younger New Zealanders with a bachelors or higher qualification reflects the very significant increases in access to higher levels of tertiary education from the 1990s. Also, just under 40 percent of this age group held other tertiary qualifications in 2011 (Figure 1.2). This means that those with no or a lower-level qualification have decreased considerably, for this age group, over the last 10 years.

Figure 1.2 New Zealanders aged 25 to 34 years with non-degree tertiary qualifications

 Figure 1.2 New Zealanders aged 25 to 34 years with non-degree tertiary qualifications

Priority for 25 to 34 year-old New Zealanders

In 2012, the government set a goal to increase the proportion of 25 to 34 year-olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees (at level 4 and above). More information on this priority, which is part of the government’s Better Public Service initiative, is provided later on in this chapter in the section on early 2012 indications.

Enrolments in 2011

There were 456,000 students enrolled in formal tertiary education at providers in 2011.1 Of the students in formal tertiary study of more than one week’s duration, 48,100 were international students, 9,190 were in Foundation-Focused Training Opportunities, 9,050 were in Youth Training, and 3,590 were in Youth Guarantee. There were also 624 senior secondary students studying via trades academies in 2011. Of the students in formal tertiary study of less than one week’s duration, 17,400 were in the Secondary-Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) programme and 6,910 students were in other short courses.

Figure 1.3 Trends in formal study by level of study and setting

Figure 1.3 Trends in formal study by level of study and setting


Enrolments in formal tertiary study by domestic students fell from 2010 to 2011. The reduction was mainly due to a fall in enrolments in non-degree qualifications by students aged 25 years and over. The government’s move to a capped funding system for tertiary education institutions, which began in 2008, has led to the preferences of the Tertiary Education Commission, tertiary education providers and tertiary education consumers to continue to shift away from non-degree qualifications, especially for older students, a trend that started in 2005.

When converted to equivalent full-time student units, the decrease in domestic enrolments in 2011 was smaller. That is, domestic students continued to take on higher study loads in 2011 (on average), following a trend that began in 2008.

From 2010 to 2011, there were also fewer enrolments in non-degree qualifications by people aged 24 years and under. However, enrolments in degree and higher qualifications by this age group continued to increase. This continued upward trend in higher-level enrolments by young people aligns with the government’s tertiary education priority of having more young people achieve at level 4 and above. It also reflects increasing school achievement, with more young people qualified to study at higher tertiary education levels.

In 2011, enrolments by younger people declined overall for the first time in five years. This was, in part, due to the population bulge of those born in 1989 through to 1991 completing its move from school to tertiary education.

International tertiary education students

The upward trend in international students continued from a low point in 2008. From 2010 to 2011, the number of international students increased by 5.5 percent to 48,100.

Figure 1.4 International students by level of study

Figure 1.4 International students by level of study

Qualifications achievement

In 2011, 154,000 qualifications were completed, 17,800 of them by international students. Of the 120,800 domestic students who completed a qualification, 73,400 were women and 47,400 were men.

Figure 1.5 Number of qualifications completed by formal domestic students by level of study2

Figure 1.5 Number of qualifications completed by formal domestic students by level of study[2]

Māori and Pasifika tertiary education students

Raising achievement for Māori students is a key priority, and development of the next phase of Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success has started for the period 2013-2017. This is an opportunity to build on what has been accomplished since the strategy was first launched in 2008. The overall participation rate of Māori in tertiary education is high; the challenge remains to raise the participation in tertiary education of young Māori at higher qualification levels. Fifteen percent of Māori aged 24 years and under participated in tertiary education at level 4 and higher in 2011. The comparable figures were 23 percent for Europeans and 25 percent for Asians.

The overall participation rate of Pasifika peoples in tertiary education was also higher than for all New Zealanders in 2011. The proportion of Pasifika aged 24 years and under who participated in tertiary education at level 4 and higher was 18 percent in 2011. As this proportion is 5 percentage points lower than for all young New Zealanders, raising the participation of Pasifika in higher-level qualifications remains an important challenge. A new Pasifika Education Plan for the period 2013-2017 was agreed by the government in 2012.

Youth Guarantee and secondary-tertiary programmes

The number of places in the Youth Guarantee programme has increased, reaching 3,590 in 2011. Youth Guarantee places are for 16 to 17 year-olds (see chapters 3 and 7 for more information about this programme).

New Zealand’s first tertiary high school had 87 students in 2011. Eight trades academies also started operations in 2011, providing 624 places for 16 and 17 year-olds in 2011.

Non-formal tertiary education

Tertiary education that does not contribute towards a recognised qualification, such as adult and community education, attracted an estimated 114,000 enrolments in 2011. Enrolments in adult and community education at tertiary education institutions continued to decline in 2011. Following significant cuts to government funding in 2010, enrolments in adult and community education in schools rose by 11 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Tertiary education in New Zealand

New Zealand’s tertiary education sector makes a wide range of learning available, from foundation skills to doctoral studies. Through its research activities, the sector is a major contributor to the nation’s innovation.

A key feature of the New Zealand system is the integration of funding and provision across vocational education and training, higher education, workplace training, adult and community education, and tertiary education that takes place within the senior secondary school.

Funding covers all levels of tertiary education, from second-chance education to doctoral studies. Funding through the student achievement component supports the costs of teaching and learning. From 2011, funding that supports tertiary education organisations’ capability, to enable them to focus on their core roles in the tertiary education system, has been incorporated into the student achievement component.

Industry training provides workforce skills to a significant number of people. This training is designed by, and delivered in conjunction with, industry, and leads to nationally recognised qualifications.

There are also funds that provide fully subsidised education and training to disadvantaged groups such as those at risk of unemployment.

The government funds such learning as foundation education, adult literacy and English for speakers of other languages. It also provides funding to providers of adult and community education.

The results of learning through tertiary education can be viewed in terms of improving competencies and attainment, or progress towards attainment, of recognised qualifications. A competency includes the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values needed to perform important tasks. The literacy, language and numeracy programmes build adults’ fluency, independence and range in language, literacy and numeracy so that they can use these competencies to participate effectively in all aspects of their lives.

The New Zealand Qualifications Framework provides a standard structure for naming and describing qualifications across levels and types of provision. It incorporates all tertiary qualifications, including the 10 levels of qualification from entry-level certificates to doctorates.


Provider-based students by qualification level

The enrolments trends for students in level 1 to 3 qualifications are discussed in chapter 7. In 2011, students in level 1 to 3 qualifications represented 19 percent of all equivalent full-time student units in formal provider-based tertiary education.

Information on students in level 4 to 7 non-degree qualifications is covered in chapter 8. In 2011, students in level 4 to 7 non-degree qualifications represented 25 percent of all equivalent full-time student units in formal provider-based tertiary education.

The enrolment trends of people studying bachelors and higher qualifications are presented in chapter 9. In 2011, students in bachelors degrees and graduate certificates and diplomas represented 45 percent of all equivalent full-time student units in formal provider-based tertiary education. Those in postgraduate qualifications accounted for 11 percent.

Figure 1.6 Distribution of equivalent full-time student units by level of study

Figure 1.6 Distribution of equivalent full-time student units by level of study

Workplace-based learning

Industry training data for 2011 is not yet available due to changes to the method of collecting this information. Data for 2011 from the new Industry Training Register is expected to become available at the end of 2012.

Data on workplace-based learners for the 2010 year is detailed in chapter 6.

Early 2012 indications

April 2012 provider-based enrolments

Early indications3 are that the number of students enrolled in formal study4 at tertiary education providers in 2012 decreased by about 1 percent, compared with the same period in 2011. In terms of equivalent full-time student units the number remained stable. This means that the average study load of students has continued to rise.

The latest decline in the number of students comprised a decrease in domestic enrolments of about 2 percent, partly offset by an increase in international enrolments of 5 percent.

The decrease in the number of provider-based students in 2012 was mainly at private training establishments and polytechnics. Student numbers at private training establishments fell by nearly 6 percent. At polytechnics, the decrease was less substantial, at 1.5 percent. The student numbers remained stable from 2011 to 2012 at universities, while they increased by almost 3 percent at wānanga.

Figure 1.7 Percentage change in the number of domestic and international students by qualification level (April 2012 compared with April 2011)

Figure 1.7 Percentage change in the number of domestic and international students by qualification level (April 2012 compared with April 2011)

Looking at the change in formal enrolments by qualification level shows that the number of domestic students decreased at most levels. The most substantial decreases occurred for level 5 to 7 diplomas and level 1 to 3 certificates. In contrast, the number of bachelors-degree students increased by 2.2 percent and the amount of study at this level increased by almost 3 percent. Enrolments in level 4 certificates also increased, although the increase in the amount of study at this level was considerably smaller.

The early indications showed that Pasifika are the only domestic student group with increased tertiary education enrolments in 2012, continuing a strong upward trend. Enrolments by Pasifika students increased at most qualification levels except for level 1 to 3 certificates and level 5 to 7 diplomas. While enrolments increased at bachelors level for most ethnic groups in 2012, the percentage increase for Pasifika students was substantially higher. Also, there were strong increases in the number of Pasifika students studying honours degrees, postgraduate certificates/diplomas and masters degrees in 2012, while enrolments by Europeans, Asians and the other ethnic group decreased at most postgraduate levels.

The April 2012 snapshot also indicated that enrolments by international students increased at most qualification levels, continuing an upward trend that started in 2009. The qualification levels with the biggest increases were graduate certificates/diplomas, doctoral degrees, masters degrees, and level 5 to 7 diplomas. The average study load of international students decreased from 2011 to 2012 as the increase in international full-time equivalent students at just over 3 percent was smaller than the increase in the number of students.

Promoting innovation and knowledge transfer

In 2012, the government announced the structure for a new advanced technology institute. The institute is expected to have operations in Auckland, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch. It aims to better connect firms in highly technical production with innovation expertise and facilities within the institute itself and across New Zealand’s Crown research institutes, universities, polytechnics, and other research organisations. In turn, the firms are expected to become more competitive and to grow faster as they improve their ability to turn ideas into new products and services.

Industrial Research Ltd will be an integral part of the proposed advanced technology institute although it is intended that the institute’s focus will be broader in scope than Industrial Research Ltd and it will operate as a Crown agent rather than as a Crown-owned company.

The institute is expected to focus on industries with significant growth potential such as food and beverage manufacturing, therapeutics manufacturing, high-value wood products and agricultural, digital and health technologies.

Delivering Better Public Services

In 2012, the government set 10 targets for better public services, including two education achievement targets that impact directly on tertiary education.

New Zealand’s tertiary education system performs strongly for many, but not for all. We need an education system that equips all learners with the skills that allow them to succeed in the 21st century.

The education achievement targets are expected to benefit all New Zealanders, through boosting skill levels and employment, and to contribute to government’s overall priorities. These targets are ambitious and realising them requires a significant shift in the way that government agencies work with learners, families, whānau, aiga, communities and the education sector.

The first target that relates to the tertiary education system is that by 2017, 85 percent of 18 year-olds will have achieved NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification. For 2011, the proportion is estimated to be 68 percent.5 Having NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification gives people the minimum qualification required to progress to further education and training and better employment opportunities.

While schools have the major role to play in this target, actions to achieve it will also include developing a range of education options for 16 and 17 year-olds which lead to
level 2 qualifications in the tertiary system. These options will be targeted to students for whom school is not necessarily a successful experience. Other actions include extending secondary-tertiary programmes such as trades academies and fees-free tertiary places, further developing vocational pathways within tertiary-led programmes and strengthening the accountability of Youth Guarantee providers. There will also be actions to re-engage young people who have dropped out of education, or who are at risk of doing so.

The second target is that by 2017, 55 percent of the population aged 25 to 34 years will have a qualification at level 4 or above. For 2011, the proportion is estimated to be 52 percent. Achieving this target is ambitious because of the increasing size of the population in this age group over the next five years, falling net migration of skilled young people and modest growth in enrolments at higher levels.

Actions to achieve this target include increasing student enrolments in the young age groups at level 4 and above, improving educational quality and achievement – especially through clearer pathways with a focus on employment – and providing better information on educational performance and outcomes.

Footnotes

  1. Provider-based students (excluding students in non-government-funded providers) who are studying towards a qualification on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Youth Guarantee and Foundation-Focused Training Opportunities require learners to achieve unit standards that count towards a qualification on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
  2. Due to the changes made to the collection of completions data in 2007, some private training establishments were not able to supply information. In 2007, the number of students completing a qualification has been adjusted for the missing data returns, however, the total number of qualifications completed in 2007 remains lower.
  3. The data in this section covers the enrolments made in the period from January to April 2012, compared with the enrolments made in the period from January to April 2011. It represents about three-quarters of the annual enrolments data and needs to be interpreted as provisional information that is subject to change when the final data comes available in 2012.
  4. Study towards a qualification of more than one week’s duration on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
  5. Based on provisional data.

 

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