Profile & Trends 2004: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector

Publication Details

This is edition seven in an annual series on the tertiary education sector. Profile & Trends has an associated set of tables available on the Tertiary Education Statistics page here on Education Counts.

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

Date Published: December 2005

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

Links to related publications and information that may be of interest can be found in the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.  Individual chapters are available as downloads on this webpage (below).


This report is the seventh edition of the Ministry of Education's annual survey of the tertiary education sector.

The report is a summary of important characteristics and overall performance of the tertiary education sector in 2004. The report provides comments on trends and developments within the sector and provides information for people interested in the tertiary education sector. It aims to be the primary source of data and information on the sector for the public and key stakeholders.

Tertiary education plays a fundamental role in providing the skills New Zealand needs to help create a knowledge economy and society. This report provides further evidence of the value the sector contributes to our society and to our economy.

This year's survey differs from previous years in that, in its learner profiles, it analyses enrolments and achievement by the level of the qualification in line with the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications. This has enabled a specific focus on the different paths that make up our tertiary education system and which cater for the different needs and abilities of a more diverse student body.

This year's report also includes new information on the tertiary education workforce and special foci on women, Asian students and international students in tertiary education, as well as complementing and lending context to the large volume of statistical information already available on the Ministry of Education website.

You can download the individual chapters and the statistical tables for Profile and Trends: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector 2004 at the bottom of this page.

Key Findings

There has been a continued growth in student numbers - domestic and international. Participation rates have reached new highs. This reinforces the need for government's new emphasis for tertiary education - having made substantial gains in participation, it is time to focus attention on the value of that participation - through a renewed emphasis on the quality and relevance of tertiary education.

Industry training has been an area of particular growth - numbers in industry training have grown faster since 2000 than numbers in the Student Component funded part of the sector.

The report gives evidence of the success of the tertiary education reforms in shifting the emphasis of the sector. The evidence in the report shows that the sector's research is increasingly being used by businesses as the connections between the universities and industry are strengthened. New moves on quality - such as the Teaching Matters Forum and the Performance-Based Research Fund - are beginning to shift the focus from quantity to quality.

Overview of the sector

  • There were some 455,000 domestic and 50,400 international students enrolled in tertiary education qualifications during 2004. In addition, over 139,500 trainees engaged in industry-based training, including 7,200 Modern Apprentices.
  • Over 128,000 domestic students completed 140,500 formally-recognised qualifications in 2004. This represents a 16 percent increase in the number of students who completed qualifications over the previous year.
  • The first-year attrition rate of TEO students who started a qualification in 2003 was 33 percent, down from 39 percent in the previous year.

Learners in certificates at levels 1 to 3

  • In 2004, there were 385,200 students enrolled in formal tertiary education at levels 1 to 3.
  • From 1999 to 2004, the number of learners in level 1 to 3 qualifications funded through the Student Component increased from 76,000 to 216,100, a nearly threefold increase.
  • In 2004, there were around 150,800 students enrolled in vocationally-oriented certificates1 at levels 1 to 3, funded through the Student Component.
  • From 1998 to 2003, progression rates for formal students completing level 1 to 3 certificates have fluctuated, while the number of students completing has increased substantially.
  • The government has continued to provide funding for adult literacy through the Adult Literacy Learning Pool. In 2004, up to 3,000 learners accessed opportunities through this pool.

Learners in certificates and diplomas at levels 4 to 6

  • One of the most noticeable trends in tertiary education over the last five years has been the increase in level 4 provision and its uptake by non-traditional student groups.
  • The bulk of the increase in participation at level 4 occurred in the wānanga, where student numbers increased from just 137 in 2000 to 16,000 in 2004. The ITPs also significantly increased their level 4 enrolments from under 6,000 in 2002 to 18,000 in 2004.
  • Overall, when compared with other levels, levels 4, 5 and 6 have high rates of attrition and low rates of completion.
  • During 2004, nearly 140,000 trainees were learning under industry training agreements, an increase of 10 percent from 2003, and over 72 percent since 2000. Employer participation in industry training increased by 7 percent from 29,000 employers in 2003 to 31,000 in 2004.

Learners in bachelors-level qualifications

  • Over 126,600 domestic students (28 percent) at government-funded TEOs studied at bachelors level in 2004, a decrease of 0.9 percent from 2003. This is the first decrease in domestic students studying at bachelors level in recent years.
  • Māori students studying at bachelors level made up 16 percent of all Māori students in tertiary education in 2004 and there were 15,000 Māori students studying at bachelors level in 2004, up 79 percent since 1994.
  • There were nearly 7,000 Pasifika bachelors-level students in 2004, up 79 percent since 1994. Domestic Asian students are the second largest ethnic group in bachelors-level study.
  • A total of 23,000 domestic students completed 24,000 bachelors-level qualifications in 2004.

Learners in postgraduate tertiary education

  • There were 31,000 domestic and 4,000 international students enrolled in postgraduate study during 2004.
  • Since 1994, the number of postgraduate domestic students has increased by 67 percent, while the percentage of the population aged 15 and over participating in postgraduate study rose from 0.5 percent in 1994 to 1.0 percent in 2004.
  • Universities continue to be the largest provider of postgraduate education, with 89 percent of all domestic postgraduate students enrolled in a university.
  • While Māori and Pasifika are under-represented in postgraduate study their share has been increasing every year.

Research in tertiary education

  • The number of research outputs reported by the universities increased by 31 percent over the seven years between 1997 and 2003.
  • In 2004, the TEIs had a total research income of nearly $430 million, excluding GST, up from less than $300 million in 2000, an increase of 45 percent.
  • Research income in the universities in 2004 represented 19.6 percent of all university income, compared with 20.8 percent in 2003 and 19.1 percent in 2000.

Investing in knowledge and skills

  • The government's expenditure on tertiary education decreased by about 2 percent between 2003/04 and 2004/05, from $3.8 billion to $3.7 billion. Of this sum, 51 percent funded tuition subsidies, 26 percent student loans and 10 percent student allowances, while a further 6 percent funded other training programmes including industry training, Skill Enhancement and transition programmes such as Youth Training and Training Opportunities.
  • Total spending on tuition subsidies increased by 5 percent from $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion in 2004. There was an increase of 1 percent in the number of government-funded places between 2003 and 2004 from 246,000 to 248,000. Since 1999, the number of equivalent full-time students (EFTS) places has risen by 46 percent and the total value of tuition subsidies by 59 percent. The average amount of tuition subsidies per EFTS increased by 4 percent in TEOs between 2003 and 2004.

The main report and accompanying tables can be downloaded in part or in full from the links below.

Downloads Individual Chapters

Chapter Downloads File Type & Size

Download Data Tables

These statistical tables support the information in New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector: Profile and Trends 2004 and cover the following aspects of the tertiary education sector for the year 2004:

  • Government funding
  • Financial results of institutions
  • Staff
  • Research
  • Students and learners - their participation and achievement
  • Student support - including student loans and allowances
  • Outcomes of tertiary education.

The tables are in Microsoft Excel format. Each spreadsheet has an index to help you navigate through the tables. These indexes can be used either online and after the spreadsheet has been downloaded and saved. The Master Index lists each table in all the spreadsheets.  The Technical Notes cover spreadsheets D.3.1 to D.3.7 (inclusive).

Data Tables Downloads File Type & Size


  1. That is, all qualifications not included as foundation education qualifications at levels 1 to 3.

Contact Us

For more information about this publication please email the:  Tertiary Mailbox