Educational attainment in the adult population
What We Have Found
Over a fifth of New Zealand's population aged 15 years and older has attained a tertiary qualification at degree level or above.
Date Updated: January 2017
Distribution of the population aged 15 years and older by highest qualification.
Why This Is Important
People with higher-level tertiary qualifications have lower unemployment rates and higher earnings than people without a qualification. People with a qualification are also more likely to rate their health as excellent, or very good, than people without a qualification. As the requirements for many jobs and the expectations of employers continue to change, education provides the skills and knowledge necessary for participation in society and for a more productive workforce. Education also contributes to an expansion of scientific and cultural knowledge, and a population's educational levels are positively related to economic growth rates and to a country's capacity to provide its citizens with a high standard of living.
This indicator reports on the highest level of qualification held by those aged 15 years and over. Also included is an international comparison of the educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64 years. People's qualifications are often considered a proxy for 'human capital', that is, their skills and knowledge. Changes in the educational attainment of the population also provides information about access to education and the equity of the education system.
How We Are Going
In New Zealand, all post-school study is considered to be tertiary education study. In 2015, 52 percent of the population aged 15 years and over, held a tertiary qualification and over the last 10 years a greater proportion of New Zealanders held a bachelors or higher qualification as their highest qualification. In 2005, 15 percent of New Zealanders held a bachelors or higher qualification and, in 2015, the figure was 21 percent.
Figure 1: Educational attainment of the New Zealand population aged 15 years and over by their highest qualification (2005-2015)
New Zealand adults aged 25 to 64 years have educational attainment that is similar to the average for OECD countries. For diplomas and higher-level qualifications, New Zealand has average attainment compared to other OECD countries. However, it does have more adults with bachelor degrees and fewer with masters degrees.
Figure 2: Educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64 years for selected countries by highest qualification level (2015)
In 2015, 21 percent of New Zealanders held a bachelors or higher qualification and, in 2005, the figure was 15 percent. For the Māori and Pasifika ethnic groups, the proportions with a bachelors or higher qualification also increased from 2005 to 2015 –up from 5.6 percent to 10 percent for Māori and up from 5.4 percent to 8.6 percent for Pasifika. The growth in degree or postgraduate qualifications has been highest for Māori, with rates in 2015 being almost double those in 2005. This growth rate compares to an increase for the non-Māori, non-Pasifika group from 14 percent in 2005 to 24 percent in 2014. Despite this, the gap between Māori and Pasifika and the non-Māori, non-Pasifika group has not closed.
Figure 3: Proportion of the New Zealand population aged 15 years and over with a bachelors degree or higher qualification by ethnic group (2005-2015)
Thirty-one percent of the population aged 15 years and older held a tertiary certificate or diploma as their highest qualification in 2015, compared to 34 percent in 2005. 'Other' post-school qualifications are included with tertiary certificates and diplomas and the proportion with this type of qualification increased from 2005 to 2015. In part, this was as a result of increases in migration into New Zealand. The proportion with a level 4 to 7 diplomas or certificate decreased from 2005 to 2015.
From 2014 to 2015, the proportion of Māori and Pasifika with a tertiary certificate or diploma increased by 2 percentage points to 30 percent and 24 percent, respectively.
Figure 4: Proportion of the New Zealand population aged 15 years and over with a tertiary certificate or diploma as their highest qualification by ethnic group (2005-2015)
Where To Find Out More
For more publication-related information, please email the: Information Officer Mailbox