Tertiary graduate progression to higher-level study

What We Have Found

Close to 40 percent of people who graduated with a level 1 to 4 certificate in 2007 went on to higher-level study within five years.  This compared to 29 percent of people graduating with a level 5 to 7 diploma.  People graduating with vocationally-oriented qualifications, such as a diploma, are more likely to move into employment than continue studying.

Date Updated: August 2018

Indicator Description

This indicator looks at how many people continue to do further study after completing a qualification.  To calculate this rate, people who complete a qualification in a particular year have their progress traced over the succeeding years.  See the indicator definition for a detailed description.

Progression to higher-level study after completing a qualification

Progression to a higher level of study following graduation varied by qualification type and level.  People with a vocationally-oriented qualification, such as a graduate diploma or certificate, had the lowest progression rates.  These graduates are more likely to move into employment than continue studying.

Students completing a foundation-level qualification (level 1 to 3 certificates) had higher progression rates than vocationally-oriented graduates.  This pattern holds when the rates are broken down by gender, ethnic group, age group and field of study.

Certificates 1 to 3

Of the students who completed a level 1 to 3 certificate in 2011, 26 percent enrolled in higher-level study in 2012.  Within five years of completing a level 1 to 3 certificate in 2011, 38 percent of graduates had progressed to higher-level study. See Figure 1.  One of the reasons students completing lower-level certificates have high progression rates, is to improve their prospects in the labour market.

Certificates 4

Students with a level 4 certificate had even higher progression rates than those with a level 1 to 3 certificate. The progression rate to higher-level study of people who graduated with a level 4 certificate in 2011, was 30 percent after one year and 39 percent after five years.

Diplomas/certificates 5 to 7

Only 19 percent of the students who completed a level 5 to 7 diploma or certificate in 2011 enrolled in further study at a higher level in 2012.  For students who completed a graduate diploma or certificate, the rate was as low as 7 percent in recent years.

Over time, the rates for these vocationally-oriented qualifications do increase.  Twenty-nine percent of students who graduated in 2011 with a level 5 to 7 diploma or certificate had enrolled in higher-level study by 2016.  For people completing a graduate diploma or certificate in 2011, the five-year rate was 14 percent.

Bachelors or higher qualifications

Of the people who graduated with a bachelors degree in 2011, 24 percent had enrolled in higher-level study in 2012.  After five years, the rate was 35 percent.

Of the people who graduated with an honours qualification in 2011, 19 percent had enrolled in a masters or doctoral degree in 2012.  After five years, the rate was 27 percent.

Figure 1: First-year and five-year, higher-level graduate progression rates for domestic students by qualification level

Progression and the labour market

People’s decision to progress to a higher level of study following the completion of a qualification is likely to be influenced by many considerations.[1] Among these are the labour market conditions at the time of completion. Their aspirations with respect to their life-long earnings will also play a role.  A substantial body of evidence shows that people with higher levels of education are more likely to:

  • participate in the labour market
  • face lower risks of unemployment
  • have greater access to further training, and
  • higher earnings on average.[2]

Figure 2 shows that people with a bachelors or higher qualification have the lowest unemployment rates.

Figure 2: Unemployment rates by gender and qualification level (grey bars indicate economic recession period)

Note:  From 2006 to 2012, people who did not state their qualification were included with those with no qualification, and diplomas and certificates included level 7 diplomas and certificates.  Source: Statistics New Zealand, Household Labour Force Survey

Lower unemployment for men with a level 1 to 6 diploma or certificate

The lower unemployment rates for men with a level 1 to 6 qualification in Figure 2 are reflected in lower progression rates for men especially for level 1 to 4 certificates.  Both the first-year and five-year progression rates to higher-level study were close to 10 percentage points lower for men than women.

Combining work with study

The need for some people to combine study with work also influences the decision whether, or when, to progress to higher-level study after completing a qualification.  About two-thirds of the people who progressed to higher-level study over the years from 2011 to 2015 did so in the first year following completion of a qualification. The remainder progressed to a higher level within five years of completing a qualification.

The declining unemployment rates from 2013 onwards were accompanied by decreases in the five-year progression rates for people completing a bachelors degree or honours qualification in 2010 and 2011.  However, for those with a diploma or certificate (1 to 7) the progression rates increased or remained stable.

Similar progression rates for men and women, except at level 1 to 4

The first-year progression rates to higher-level study for women and men completing qualifications over the years from 2011 through to 2015 varied within a narrow range, except for level 1 to 4 certificates. See Figure 3.

Figure 3: First-year, higher-level graduate progression rates for domestic students by gender and qualification level

The proportion of graduates enrolling in higher-level study in the year following the completion of a level 1 to 4 certificate was almost 10 percentage points lower for men than for women.  The higher demand for all levels of skills associated with the building industry in Auckland and Christchurch is likely to have contributed to this difference.  More men than women continue to enter the building industry.  Men also continued to have lower unemployment rates than women for level 1 to 6 diplomas and certificates.

Highest progression rates for men and women at level 1 to 4

In spite of the recent strong labour market for building skills, over 30 percent of men with a level 1 to 3 certificate and 34 percent with a level 4 certificate enrolled in higher-level study within five years of completing this level of qualification.  See Figure 4.  For women the rates were even higher, with over 40 percent enrolling in higher-level study within five years after graduating with a level 1 to 4 certificate.

Similar progression rates for men and women at level 5 to 7

There were only small differences in the five-year graduate progression rates of women and men who had completed a diploma or higher qualification.  About 30 percent of men and women with a level 5 to 7 diploma or certificate progressed to higher-level study within five years, compared to about 35 percent of people with a bachelors degree.  See Figure 4.

Similar progression rates for men and women at higher levels

A slightly larger proportion of men than women with a graduate diploma/certificate or an honours qualification progressed to higher-level study within five years.

About 15 percent of men and women with a graduate diploma or certificate progressed to higher-level study within five years, compared to over 25 percent of those who completed an honours qualification.

Figure 4: Five-year, higher-level graduate progression rates for domestic students by gender and qualification level

Higher progression rates linked to higher unemployment by ethnic group

Differences in the unemployment rate by ethnic group also influence people’s decision whether, and when, to progress to higher-level study.

Māori and Pasifika have higher unemployment rates and this is likely to have contributed to the upswing from 2010 to 2011 in the five-year progression rate for people graduating at levels 1 to 4.  People with level 1 to 4 qualifications have the highest unemployment rates and are more likely to do further study to enhance their employment prospects.  See Figure 5.

Within five years of graduating with a level 4 certificate in 2011, around 40 percent of Māori, Pasifika and European graduates had enrolled in higher-level study. Again, higher demand associated with the building industry in Auckland and Christchurch is likely to have contributed to higher graduate progression rates in recent years.  These graduates will have enhanced their prospects of employment through increasing their skill levels.

Figure 5:  Five-year, higher-level graduate progression rates for domestic students by ethnic group and qualification level

Progression rates increase for graduates with a level 1 to 3 certificate

The five-year progression rates for level 1 to 3 certificates increased by about 5 percentage points from 2010 to 2011.[3] While the progression rate for European and Asian graduates was lower than for the other ethnic groups, their rates also increased.

Similar progression rates among ethnic groups at higher qualification levels

Of the students who graduated with a level 5 to 7 diploma or certificate from 2007 through to 2011, 30 to 35 percent in the Māori, Pasifika and Asian ethnic groups had progressed to higher-level study within five years.  Europeans graduating with a level 5 to 7 diploma or certificate had a slightly lower progression rate.  This reflects, in part, the lower unemployment rate for this group.

Among the ethnic groups, 35 to 40 percent of those who graduated from 2007 through to 2011 with a bachelors degree, went onto higher-level study within five years.

The five-year rates of people with a graduate diploma or certificate ranged from about 15 to 25 percent by ethnic group.  Graduate diplomas or certificates aim to provide people with theoretical or specialised knowledge in a professional context or field of study, making them work-ready and, therefore, less likely to do further study.

Figure 5 shows that the five-year, higher-level progression rate ranged from 25 to 35 percent among the ethnic groups for graduates with an honours qualification.

Young graduates more likely to do further study after completing a qualification

Figure 6 shows the five-year, higher-level progression rates by age group for people graduating from 2007 through to 2011.

Figure 6: Five-year, higher-level graduate progression rates for domestic students by age group and qualification level

There are large differences by age group for certificates and diplomas.  The lowest progression rates to higher-level study are for those aged 40 years and over. As expected, the highest rates are for under-20 year olds.  As older people have higher employment rates than people aged under 24 years, this is likely to be a contributor to the differences by age group.

Five-year, higher-level progression rates for people graduating from 2007 through to 2011 by age group:

  • 30 to 45 percent for level 1 to 3 certificates
  • 30 to 50 percent for level 4 certificates
  • 20 to 40 percent for level 5 to 7 diplomas or certificates, and
  • 30 to 40 percent for bachelors degrees.
Highest rates for young graduates with a bachelors degree

Over the last 10 years, of the people with a bachelors degree, about 50 percent of under-20-year-olds, and 40 percent for 20-to-24-year-olds, progressed to higher-level study within five years.

The graduate progression rates by age group were similar for people who complete a graduate diploma or certificate or an honours qualification.

Progression rates vary by field of study

There was more variability in the progression rates by field of study than by gender, age and ethnic group.  The labour demand for the field of study completed is an important factor influencing people’s decision to do further study, or not, after completing a qualification.

Figure 7 shows the latest five-year, higher-level graduate progression rates for the five most common fields of study.  These fields represented at least 70 percent of graduates at each qualification level.  The year 2011 was used to determine the most common fields studied.  Management and commerce, and society and culture (excluding law) featured in each qualification level as these broad fields include a wide ranging number of narrow fields.[4]

Most common fields of study – five-year, higher-level graduate progression rates
Certificates 1 to 3

Since 2007, some 45 percent of graduates in food and hospitality, and society and culture (excluding law) went on to higher-level study after completing a level 1 to 3 certificate.  The rates for management and commerce were mainly in the high thirties. For engineering and agricultural graduates the rates ranged since 2007 from about 20 to 28 percent.

Certificates 4

Since 2007, the five-year, higher-level progression rates have generally increased for graduates completing a level 4 certificate. The rate for creative arts graduates was highest, at over 60 percent.  This compared to about 45 percent for graduates in health (excluding nursing), and society and culture (excluding law), 30 percent for those in management and commerce and 25 percent for food and hospitality graduates.

Diplomas/certificates 5 to 7

In 2011, society and culture, education, creative arts, management and commerce, and health were the top five fields of study for graduates completing a level 5 to 7 diploma or certificate. Since 2007, the five-year, higher-level progression rates for graduates in these fields varied from 25 percent to 35 percent.

Bachelors-degrees

Since 2007, progression to higher-level study within five years has decreased for graduates with a bachelors degree in natural and physical sciences, and society and culture (excluding law) to about 45 percent. The rates also declined for management and commerce graduates to about 20 percent.  For creative arts the rates has been stable since 2007, at about 30 percent, and for education the rate was stable, at about 20 percent.

Graduate diplomas or certificates

People with a graduate diploma or certificate had five-year, higher-level progression rates ranging from 7 to 17 percent for four of the five most common fields of study.  See Figure 7.  Society and culture (excluding law) was the exception to this.  Since 2007, graduates in this field of study had a five-year, higher-level progression rate of over 30 percent.

Honours qualifications

A substantial number of graduates completed honours qualifications in the field of society and culture (excluding law) in 2011 and 40 percent of these graduates had progressed to masters or doctoral study within five years.  In the other most common fields for honours graduates, close to 20 percent progressed to study a masters or doctoral degree within five years.

Figure 7: Five-year, higher-level progression rates for domestic graduates by common fields of study and qualification level

Footnotes

  1. During the last decade, there have been a number of one-off events that are likely to have influenced people’s decisions to progress to higher-level study following the completion of a qualification.  These factors include the:  movement of a population bulge of young people into tertiary education starting in 2006;  2009/10 economic recession that led to more people entering and staying in tertiary education;  2011 earthquakes in Christchurch and the associated rebuilding, and Auckland’s housing shortage that has drawn some people into the building industry in recent years.
  2. See Publications/Tertiary Education/Outcomes for information on graduate outcomes.
  3. Asians and Europeans had a smaller proportion of their population participate in level 1 to 4 certificate study in 2016, at 1.4 percent and 2.1, respectively.  This compared to 2.5 percent for the national average.
  4. In 2011, graduate numbers in the fields of food and hospitality, and agriculture were largest for lower-level certificates, while for the field of natural and physical sciences the numbers were larger at bachelors and higher levels.  Engineering graduate numbers were largest for honours and level 1 to 3 certificate graduates.  Graduate numbers in the fields of education and creative arts were largest for level 4 to 7 diplomas/certificates and bachelors degrees.  In 2011, the largest number of graduate diplomas/certificates were completed in the field of education and there were also substantial numbers completed in the field of management and commerce, and law.  Health (excluding nursing) graduates had their largest numbers at levels 4 to 7 and for honours qualifications.  A substantial number of nursing graduates completed an honours qualification in 2011.

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