Research degree completion rates

What We Have Found

The number of doctoral degrees completed per 100 full-time equivalent academic staff at universities has more than doubled since 2005.

Date Updated:
February 2017

Indicator Description

The number of doctoral degrees completed per 100 full-time equivalent academic staff at universities.

Why This Is Important

The New Zealand government, like other governments, has recognised the role played by the innovation system in a knowledge-based society and economy. It has also recognised the part played by the tertiary education sector in the innovation system. The sector is an important producer of research and hence of new knowledge, producing more than 60 percent of New Zealand's research outputs. It also has the responsibility of training New Zealand's researchers.

The primary roles of tertiary education research activities are to:

  • support degree-level teaching and ensure that degree graduates are of high quality and informed by up-to-date developments in the knowledge base
  • train New Zealand's future knowledge creators and innovators
  • contribute to improving the knowledge base through high-quality research that generates new knowledge, and
  • disseminate knowledge through technology transfer.

The formal training of researchers is mainly carried out through postgraduate research degrees.  The doctoral-degree completion rate per 100 FTE academic staff, therefore, provides a proxy measure of the intensity of universities in training researchers for the future.

How We Are Going

The ratio of doctoral-degree graduates to full-time equivalent academic staff increased steadily from 2002 to 2015, while from 2008 onwards there has been a steeper yearly increase.  This is, in part, due to a change in policy that treats international doctoral students as domestic students since 2006.  Paying domestic student fees has made New Zealand a more attractive study option for international students.

In 2015, there were 23 doctoral-degree graduates per 100 full-time equivalent academic staff at New Zealand universities.  This is double the 2005 rate of 10.6 graduates per 100 full-time equivalent university academic staff.

The number of doctoral degrees completed increased from 645 in 2005 to 1,335 in 2015.  The five most common broad areas of study for doctoral degrees completed in 2015 were:

  • natural and physical sciences (28 percent),
  • society and culture (22 percent),
  • health (14 percent),
  • engineering and related technologies (14 percent), and
  • management and commerce (6.3 percent).

Figure 1: Number of doctoral degrees completed per 100 full-time equivalent academic staff at universities


Data source:  Ministry of Education (2016).


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