Profile & Trends 2009: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector

Publication Details

This is edition 12 in an annual series on the tertiary education sector. Key findings from the 2009 report are:

  • 469,000 students were enrolled in formal study programmes in 2009, including 43,500 international students. There were 202,000 industry trainees in 2009.
  • Young tertiary students are studying at a more advanced level. More than three out of four young tertiary students are now studying level 4 qualifications and above.
  • International tertiary student numbers increased by more than 9 percent in 2009. In 2010, international enrolments are expected to increase by about 8 percent, while domestic enrolments are expected to increase slightly.
Short articles on the following topics are included in Profile & Trends 2009: Participation in post-compulsory education following decreases in New Zealand’s economic activity, What do students earn after their tertiary education, Raising the literacy, language and numeracy of the adult population, Progression to, and success in, bachelors-level study, Adults in non-formal and formal learning, and Students who had a disability

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

Date Published: August 2010

Enrolments in 2009

Following a three-year downward trend, the number of students (domestic and international) enrolled in formal tertiary study increased from 2008 to 2009. Enrolments increased by more than 5 percent at every qualification level, except lower-level certificates which fell by 5.5 percent. Study for graduate and postgraduate certificate and diploma qualifications rose by as much as 15 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Converting the 2009 enrolments to equivalent full-time students units reveals a much larger increase. Also, in terms of equivalent full-time student units, enrolments fell to a lesser degree in 2007 and 2008. As a result, domestic students took on considerably higher study loads in 2009 for the second year in a row.

In terms of the number of students, bachelors degrees had the largest increase in domestic students from 2008 to 2009 due to a population bulge of 18 to 19 year-olds moving from school to tertiary education. There were also substantial increases in the number of students in level 5 to 7 diplomas, honours degrees and postgraduate diplomas and certificates. However, a substantial fall in level 1 to 4 certificates led to the number of domestic students in formal study increasing by only just over 1 percent overall. Government funding caps on tertiary education enrolments may also have contained the latest increase in the number of domestic students. Also, the rising demand for tertiary education associated with the weaker labour market was partially absorbed through more young people staying on at school.

International tertiary education enrolments increased by more than 9 percent in 2009. The international student trend, which had been tracking downwards, turned upward for the first time in four years.

Overall, there were 512,000 students enrolled in all types of formal tertiary qualifications at providers in 2009. Of these, 43,500 were international students, 25,400 were in targeted training programmes, 19,100 in the Secondary-Tertiary Alignment Resource programme and 20,300 students in formal study of less than one week’s duration.

There were also 202,000 learners engaged in industry-based training in 2009, including 12,100 in Modern Apprenticeships. Lower levels of economic activity in 2008 and 2009 led to a slowing down in the number of employees trained through some of the industry training organisations in 2009. On the other hand, the creation of a new industry training organisation for real estate contributed to an overall increase in the number in workplace-based study in 2009.

In 2009, there were also 10,800 school students in Gateway programmes, which are designed to help secondary school students experience work-based tertiary education and achieve outcomes such as gaining employment or achieving credits on the National Qualifications Framework. Non-formal education, such as adult and community education, attracted an estimated 236,000 enrolments in 2009. The proportion of the population aged 15 years and over participating in some form of tertiary learning with a tertiary education provider remained unchanged at 12 percent in 2009, and a further 6 percent participated in formal learning in the workplace.

For a more complete overview of learners in tertiary education, see chapter 5.  This chapter also contains an article on adults in non-formal and formal learning and an article on the progression to, and success in, bachelors-level study.

Figure 1.1: Trends in formal students by level of study and setting

Figure 1.2: Distribution of equivalent full-time students by level of study