The research specialisations of New Zealand tertiary education organisations Publications
This report identified the research specialisations of New Zealand tertiary education organisations (TEOs) using two sources of data – the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) Quality Evaluation and bibliometric data from Clarivate. It also analysed whether New Zealand universities were research specialists or generalists.
Author(s): Warren Smart, Ministry of Education
Date Published: November 2019
The analysis shows that:
Research specialisations of New Zealand tertiary education organisations (TEOs) based on PBRF Quality Evaluation data
The identification of specialisations at TEOs used data based on the number of full-time equivalent staff who received a PBRF funded quality category for their evidence portfolio. The distribution of researchers across subject areas at each TEO was compared with all participating TEOs to provide a relative measure of specialisation. The data showed that in 2018:
- individual universities exhibited specialisation in expected areas. For example, Massey University and Lincoln University specialised in primary sector based subjects, while the Universities of Auckland and Otago specialised in the Clinical medicine area as they have medical schools
- institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) specialised in areas which reflected their areas of degree provision (such as computing and nursing), as did the wānanga (Māori knowledge and development) and private training establishments (Religious studies).
The data for the Quality Evaluations in 2006, 2012 and 2018 showed that there was little change in the research specialisations of the New Zealand universities over time, especially the older larger institutions.
Research specialisations of New Zealand universities based on bibliometric data
The bibliometric analysis of New Zealand university research specialisations used metrics based on the number of articles and reviews published in indexed journals to identify areas of research specialisation. The analysis was relative in nature as it compared the distribution of research output at New Zealand universities with the world’s distribution. The data showed that between 1980-84 and 2013-17:
- as was the case for the analysis using PBRF data, New Zealand universities showed specialisation in expected areas – for example, Lincoln University and Massey University had a focus on the primary sector based subjects
- the New Zealand university system is relatively specialised in the agricultural and land-based subject areas. Also, there is relative specialisation in the social sciences, economics and business areas, which is a feature of English-speaking university systems
- at a system level, the areas of specialisation in New Zealand universities have remained relatively constant over time. The relative stability in areas of specialisation has occurred during a number of changes in how the government funds and rewards research
- the research profile of the New Zealand university system shares some similarities with university systems in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK), but also has its own distinctive research profile with a higher degree of specialisation in the agricultural and land-based subject areas
- a majority of New Zealand universities have become more generalist in nature over time, with the University of Auckland being the most generalist of Australasian universities
- the New Zealand university sector has become more generalist over time, while university systems in countries like Australia and the UK have become more specialised.