Summary: Tertiary Education Strategy Monitoring 2009

Publication Details

This is the first of a set of three reports looking at the implementation of the 2007-2012 Tertiary Education Strategy. This report provides a brief overview of the tertiary education sector as the strategy was being implemented and highlights key issues for achieving the strategy.

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

Date Published: July 2009

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Section 6: Creating and applying knowledge to drive innovation

The tertiary education sector is a significant producer of research, accounting for 30 percent of total research expenditure in New Zealand. A significant contribution of the tertiary sector has been in the area of developing and applying new knowledge.

Figure 6: Research expenditure by type of research and sector
Image of Figure 6: Research expenditure by type of research and sector.
  1. Source: Statistics New Zealand and Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, Research and Development Survey 2006 and 2008.

The greatest amount of academic research takes place in universities. Polytechnics, wānanga and private training establishments also contribute to creating and applying knowledge, particularly in the areas of applied research and knowledge transfer.

Supporting links between research, scholarship and learning

Research activity provides an important base for teaching at degree level and above. This interdependence is required by the Education Act for all degree-granting organisations.

It is difficult to construct cross-system measures of the links between research, scholarship and teaching. One measure is provided in the expected contributions report. This measure looks at the relationship between the number and quality of research staff (as measured through the Performance-Based Research Fund) and the amount of teaching carried out (as measured through equivalent full-time enrolments).

The conclusions from this measure are that within subjects and across universities:

  • at bachelors level there is a consistent match of research and teaching in all subjects
  • at masters and doctorate level, in nearly half of subject areas, some universities have a relatively greater concentration on teaching and supervision, while others have a relatively greater concentration on research.

Focusing resources for greatest effect

Efforts over the last few years to identify national research priorities have focused on research in:

  • biological and physical sciences
  • health, medicine and public health
  • mathematics, information sciences, engineering and building.

In 2006, just over half of top-rated research staff in universities were working in these areas. Within these areas, there appears to have been a shift towards agricultural, medical and biomedical research and away from more pure science areas.

Health and medical research in New Zealand universities has achieved an academic impact that is above the world average.

Improving research connections and linkages

Strengthening research connections and linkages between tertiary education institutions, crown research institutes and businesses one way of making research more effective and ensuring greater use is made of new knowledge.

In their planning, most universities have a focus on collaborating on research with other universities, research institutes and business. There has been a trend towards putting a priority on universities commercialising their own research and away from the more general transfer of knowledge and technology to business and industry.

Figure 7: Rate of joint authorship across universities in published papers
Image of Figure 7: Rate of joint authorship across universities in published papers.
  1. Source: Thomson Reuters

There is evidence of increased collaboration between universities on research projects. This is reflected in an increased rate of joint authorship of papers across universities.

Improved research connections and linkages to create economic opportunities

The Statistics New Zealand Business Operations Survey 2007 found that around one in 10 businesses with innovation activity use universities or polytechnics as a source of innovation information. Around one in 20 have cooperative arrangements with New Zealand universities and polytechnics.

Access to information is only one issue affecting business innovation. The main factors businesses see as hampering innovation are lack of management resources, development costs and lack of appropriate personnel within their organisations.

There is a shift towards universities and polytechnics providing information for innovation to larger businesses. The majority of businesses seeking information from universities and polytechnics were in manufacturing, property and business services, retail trade and health and community services.

Implementing the strategy …

While all sub-sectors engage in activities related to creating and applying knowledge, only a few tertiary education organisations made strong progress-oriented commitments in their 2008 to 2010 investment plans.

Universities have made a significant commitment in this area. Their commitments focus on increasing research revenue as the highest priority, followed closely by research productivity. Commitments have also been made to improve research connections and linkages, including some initiatives to enhance capability.

Polytechnics are focused on increasing their involvement in evidence-based technology development and transfer. Around half of them have made commitments in this area: and just over half have made more general commitments to improving applied research.

Wānanga have given more limited attention to this area, with the focus being primarily on their contribution to the ongoing development of mātauranga Māori.

Industry training organisations, private training establishments and other tertiary education providers were not expected to develop commitments in this area.