Facing the challenge: Tertiary Education Strategy monitoring 2010

Publication Details

This is the 2010 annual monitoring report for the Tertiary Education Strategy. It provides baseline data to monitor progress against the 2010-15 Strategy. The report is framed around the seven priority areas of the Strategy. Each section discusses key indicators relating to the priority, includes a summary of key points and identifies key challenges for achieving the goals of the Strategy.

The report is accompanied by a set of Cross-strategy Indicators that provide enduring measures of the overall health of the tertiary education system.

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

Date Published: December 2010

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box, top right). The "Where to Find Out More' inset box (right) has links to related publications/information that may be of interest.

Improving provider performance

“The Government wants to see ongoing improvements in the performance of the system. In particular, we want providers and industry training organisations to be more responsive to the demands of both students and industry and to make better use of scarce resources. We expect to see better course and qualification completion and progression rates for students as a result of higher-quality teaching and learning, and more effective and culturally responsive pastoral care. Public tertiary providers need to ensure they are financially viable so they provide quality education on an ongoing basis… Strong international linkages can improve the quality of teaching and research in New Zealand institutions.”

(Tertiary Education Strategy 2010-15)

This priority focuses on improving the educational and financial performance of providers, as well as continuing to build strong international linkages.

Key Points:
  • The TEC has started publishing information on the performance of individual tertiary education organisations.
  • The NZQA is implementing a new process of periodic external evaluation and reviews, looking at educational performance and self assessment capacity.
  • After a period of instability, the financial performance of tertiary education institutions has improved in 2009. However, the phase out of short-term revenue streams in 2011 is likely to have an adverse effect on polytechnics and wānanga.
  • The TEC has implemented a new financial monitoring system, using historic and forecast data to assess the risk for each tertiary education institution.
  • International student numbers are increasing after a period of decline. International research collaborations are also growing, and involving a larger number of countries.

Educational performance

The Tertiary Education Commission has started to publish information on the performance of individual tertiary education organisations. The initial set of indicators covers: students successfully completing courses and qualifications; students progressing to higher level study from levels 1 to 4; and students continuing in study.

This information provides one part of the information students and their whānau can use to make decisions about tertiary study. It is a snap shot of how well specific tertiary providers are performing in helping their students to complete courses and qualifications.

The results by subsector are shown in the figure below. The subsector differences are influenced by level of study, age of students and extent of extramural and part-time study. The value of this information for system monitoring will be in tracking how it changes over time.

Figure 26: Performance indicators by subsector
Image of Figure 26: Performance indicators by subsector.
  1. Source: Tertiary Education Commission
  2. Definitions used differ from those used by the Ministry of Education. See Tertiary Education Commission for details.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has implemented periodic external evaluation and reviews of tertiary education organisations (other than the universities). Each review provides an independent judgement of the educational performance and capability in self-assessment of the organisation.

Educational performance assesses the extent to which the educational outcomes achieved by the organisation represent quality and value for learners and the wider community.

Capability in self-assessment indicates how effectively an organisation uses information to understand its performance and bring about improvement.

The judgements reached through external evaluation and review are expressed as statements of confidence, ranging from “highly confident” to “not confident”.

At the time of compiling this report, 208 external evaluation and review visits to private training establishments had been undertaken, with 165 reports completed. The results are shown in the table below.

Of the 165, 122 providers were judged as confident to highly confident on both dimensions. Of the remainder, most were not yet confident in their capability for self assessment, while being highly confident or confident in their educational performance.

Where a provider is judged as “not yet confident” or “not confident”, the NZQA requires an action plan to address issues. These plans are closely monitored and sanctions can be applied if progress is not achieved.

Table 1: Results from external evaluation and reviews for private training establishments
(Sept 2009 – Oct 2010)
Self-assessment Capability
Educational Performance
Highly confidentConfidentNot yet confidentNot confident
Highly confident41
Not yet confident3
Not confident 1
  1. Source: New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Reviews are also being undertaken of polytechnics, wānanga and industry training organisations. Only a few of these results are available so far.

Quality assurance for universities rests with the New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit. The Unit was reviewed in 2009. The review found that the Unit was carrying out its functions adequately, but recommended a stronger emphasis on ongoing monitoring and a stronger accountability role. The Director and Board are currently developing strategies to respond to the recommendations of the review.

The Unit is now conducting its fourth cycle of university audits, which focus on the whole of the institution. Audits for three of the eight universities have been completed to date.

A key challenge for the tertiary education system is to make use of educational performance information in ways that lead to ongoing improvements in teaching and learning.

Financial performance

From 2003 to 2006, financial surpluses across public providers decreased as funding policies tightened and numbers of international students decreased. Since then, there has been an overall increase, with the total surplus being above the recommended benchmark in 2009.

On average, public providers retain good levels of liquid assets and have reasonable cash flows. Their working capital remains steady, at just about the recommended minimum.

The volatility in financial surpluses has been mainly influenced by the wānanga and polytechnic sub-sectors. These sub-sectors had strong financial performance up to 2003 and then significantly weakened by 2006. By 2008, all three wānanga were reporting surpluses. However, polytechnics remain in a mixed position, with 7 out of 20 reporting a deficit in 2008. All polytechnics and wānanga reported a surplus in 2009. However, these results are influenced by a number of short-term revenue streams that are scheduled to be phased out in 2011.

Figure 27: Key financial performance indicators for TEIs
Image of Figure 27: Key financial performance indicators for TEIs.

  1. Source: Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission
  2. In order to compare indicators on differing scales, the percentage for each indicator has been transformed into an index, where 100 represents the Tertiary Education Commission’s recommended threshold for the indicator.

The university sub-sector has maintained a steady level of surplus over this same period. Only one or two universities have been in deficit each year.

The Tertiary Education Commission introduced a new financial monitoring system for tertiary education institutions in 2010. This system develops a risk assessment based on past and forecast financial performance.

A key challenge for the tertiary education system is to manage the financial stability of institutions as significant changes in the funding mix take place over the next two years.

International linkages

It is difficult to collate meaningful information on the extent and strength of international linkages in the New Zealand tertiary education system. Two main indicators of international linkages are the number of international students in New Zealand and research publications with international co-authors.

From 2004 to 2007, there was a decrease in the number of international students studying at New Zealand tertiary education providers. This was the result of a number of factors relating to the international economy and international security concerns. Since 2008, there has been a recovery in the number of international students, along with an increase in revenue through fees.

Figure 28: Number of international students and total revenue from international student fees
Image of Figure 28: Number of international students and total revenue from international student fees.

  1. Numbers are sourced from provider enrolment returns to the Ministry of Education. Revenue is sourced from the Export Education Levy. Figures include public and private providers.

The recent increases have mostly been in the number of students studying at diploma level and in postgraduate qualifications. Since 2007, international doctoral students have been able to enrol at domestic student fees. This has encouraged a large increase in international doctoral students, who now make up 30 percent of all doctoral enrolments in New Zealand.

The proportion of tertiary education research involving international collaboration is slowly increasing. In 2007, nearly half of all research publications had international co-authors. The number of countries in which international co-authors are located increased from 90 in 2003 to 115 in 20074.


  1. Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (2010) National Bibliometric Report 2002-2007.