Tertiary graduates – further study rates

Further study rates are highest for people completing certificates

Forty-seven percent of people who graduated with a level 1 or 2 tertiary certificate in 2016 went onto further study in 2017.  Thirty-five percent progressed to higher-level study and 12 percent continued study at the same level.  People completing level 3 and 4 certificates also had high rates of further study in 2017.  This is expected, as many level 1 to 4 certificates are designed to help people advance to higher-level qualifications.

Date Updated: March 2019

Indicator Description

This indicator looks at how many people continue to do further study after completing a tertiary 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.

Further study rates highest for foundation-level study

In 2017, the first-year further study rate of domestic graduates completing a level 1 or 2 certificate was 47 percent and the five-year rate was 64 percent.  By doing further study, especially at a higher level, these graduates will increase their skills and so enhance their employment prospects.

As expected, further study rates are lowest for graduates who complete a masters degree.  In 2017, the five-year rate was 11 percent.

People who complete a graduate diploma or certificate also have lower rates of continuing in study.  In 2017, the five-year rate was 19 percent.  Graduates in these vocationally-oriented qualifications are more likely to move into employment than continue studying.  Figure 1 shows how progression rates to higher-level study vary by qualification level and type.

Figure 1: First-year and five-year progression rates to higher-level study (domestic graduates)

Majority of graduates completing certificates go onto higher-level study

Fifty-one percent of graduates completing a level 1 or 2 certificate in 2012 went on to higher level study by 2017, while 13 percent continued study at level 1 or 2.  This pattern, of the majority of graduates who continue study progressing to higher levels, applies to all qualification levels.

Progression to further study more common in year following completion

The majority of domestic graduates who continued to do further study did so in the first year following completion.  For example, 47 percent of the graduates who completed a level 1 or 2 certificate in 2016 went onto further study in 2017.  In comparison, the latest five-year rate was only 17 percentage points higher, at 64 percent.  See Table 1 for a list of first-year further study rates by higher, or the same, qualification level.

Table 1: First-year further study rates by qualification level (domestic graduates)

*’Honours’ refers to bachelors with honours degrees, postgraduate diplomas and postgraduate certificates.

Level/type of study

Proportion of students completing in 2016 that went onto further study in 2017

Higher level

Same level

Total

Certificates 1-2

35%

12%

47%

Certificates 3

28%

6.8%

35%

Certificates 4

32%

6.5%

39%

Diplomas/certificates 5-7

17%

12%

29%

Bachelors degrees

20%

1.6%

22%

Graduate diplomas/certificates

9.1%

1.6%

11%

Honours*

16%

4.9%

21%

Masters degrees

4.8%

0.9%

5.7%

Over time, further study rates increase for all graduates, but the largest increases are for level 1 to 7 diplomas and certificates.

The pattern of higher further study rates for graduates completing level 1 to 4 certificates holds when the rates are broken down by gender, ethnic group, age group and field of study.

Women completing certificates have higher further study rates than men

Women graduating with a level 1 to 4 certificate have substantially higher rates of progression to further study than men.

In 2017, the five-year further study rates of domestic graduates were:

  • certificates 1-2     – 71 percent for women, 56 percent for men
  • certificates 3        – 65 percent for women, 48 percent for men
  • certificates 4        – 59 percent for women, 48 percent for men.

Over the years from 2012 through to 2016, the first-year progression rates to higher-level study vary within a narrow range for both women and men graduates.  See Figure 2.

Figure 2: First-year progression rates to higher-level study by gender (domestic graduates)

For women and men, the five-year progression rates to higher-level study vary within a narrow range at most qualification levels.  See Figure 3.

The five-year progression rates to higher-level study for level 1 and 2 certificates and level 3 certificates are showing some variation in recent years.  The rates for level 1 and 2 certificates are about 5 percentage points higher for graduates completing in 2012 than in 2008.

Figure 3: First-year progression rates to higher-level study by gender (domestic graduates)

For men completing a level 3 certificate, the five-year progression rate to higher-level study has fallen by 10 percentage points since 2003.  The rate was 43 percent for graduates completing in 2003 and 33 percent for those completing in 2012.  The higher demand in 2011 and 2012 for all levels of skills associated with the building industry in Christchurch and Auckland is likely to have been a factor influencing people’s decision to progress to further study, or not.  While women have begun to enter the building industry in recent years, it continues to be dominated by men.  Additionally, men with a level 1 to 6 diploma or certificate as their highest qualification, have lower unemployment rates than women with this level of qualification.  See Figure 7.

For men and women completing a bachelors degree, the five-year progression rates to higher-level study have fallen slightly for graduates completing in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The improving labour market conditions in recent years is likely to have influenced people’s decision to progress to further study, or not, following the completion of a bachelors degree.

Māori completing certificates had the highest further study rates

A comparison of the main ethnic groups showed that Māori graduates completing level 1 to 4 certificates in 2012 had the highest five-year further study rates.  Of Māori graduating with level 1 or 2 certificate in 2012, 77 percent went onto further study by 2017.  The comparable rates were 68 percent for level 3 certificates and 65 percent for level 4 certificates.

The five-year progression rates to higher-level study by ethnic group are shown in Figure 4.  The pattern of higher progression rates for domestic graduates completing certificates is clearly visible.

Differences among the ethnic groups in the progression rate to higher-level study are smallest for graduates completing a bachelors or higher qualification.  For each ethnic group, there is slight downward trend in the progression to higher-level study for graduates completing a bachelors degree in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Figure 4: Five-year progression rates to higher-level study of ethnic group (domestic students)

The higher five-year progression rates for Māori and Pacific peoples completing level 1 to 4 certificates reflect, in part, the higher unemployment rates for these groups.  By doing further study, especially at a higher qualification level, these graduates will increase their skills and so enhance their employment prospects.

Table 2 shows the five-year further study rates by higher, or the same, qualification level. For each ethnic group, it shows that the proportions of graduates going onto further study at the same level are generally very small when compared to the proportion going onto higher-level study.

Table 2: Five-year further study rates by qualification level (domestic graduates)

*’Honours’ refers to bachelors with honours degrees, postgraduate diplomas and postgraduate certificates.

Level of study:

Proportion of students completing in 2012 that went onto further study by 2017

Asians

Europeans

Māori

Pacific peoples

Higher

Same

Higher

Same

Higher

Same

Higher

Same

Certificates 1-2

55%

17%

49%

12%

58%

19%

50%

11%

Certificates 3

38%

20%

38%

16%

44%

24%

45%

18%

Certificates 4

34%

14%

39%

13%

39%

26%

42%

17%

Diplomas/certificates 5-7

31%

13%

26%

19%

33%

27%

34%

16%

Bachelors degrees

28%

4.8%

32%

4.2%

30%

5.9%

33%

6.1%

Graduate dips/certs

13%

5.4%

14%

4.6%

17%

4.2%

21%

4.1%

Honours*

27%

8.6%

26%

12%

31%

12%

32%

19%

Masters degrees

6.0%

1.5%

8.9%

1.5%

16%

2.4%

15%

3.8%

Graduates aged under 25 years are more likely to do further study

Graduates under the age of 25 years had substantially higher further study rates than those aged 25 years and over. At the various qualification levels the progression rates to higher-level study were 6 to 16 percentage points higher for younger graduates than for graduates aged 25 years.See Figure 5.

The differences in the progression rates to higher-level study for level 1 to 3 certificates have recently narrowed between the two age groups.  For level 4 to 7 diplomas and certificates, and bachelors degrees, the differences between the two age groups have remained stable.

Graduates aged 25 years and over who completed a graduate diploma or certificate were an exception to the pattern by age group.  Graduates aged 25 years and over had slightly higher progression rates than younger students for this vocationally-oriented qualification.  See Figure 5.

As older people have higher employment rates than people aged under 25 years, this is likely to be a contributor to the differences between age groups.

Figure 5:  Five-year progression rates to higher-level study by age group (domestic graduates)

Table 3 shows the five-year further study rates by higher, or the same, qualification level.  For each age group, it shows that the proportions going onto further study at the same level are generally very small when compared to the proportion of students going onto higher-level study.

Table 3: Five-year further study rates by qualification level (domestic graduates)

*’Honours’ refers to bachelors with honours degrees, postgraduate diplomas and postgraduate certificates.

Level of study:

Proportion of students completing in 2012 that went onto further study by 2017

Graduates aged under 25 years

Graduates aged 25 years and over

Higher

Same

Total

Higher

Same

Total

Certificates 1-2

55%

15%

70%

49%

13%

52%

Certificates 3

46%

20%

66%

34%

17%

51%

Certificates 4

48%

16%

64%

31%

17%

48%

Diplomas/certificates 5-7

34%

21%

55%

24%

17%

41%

Bachelors degrees

34%

5.5%

40%

26%

2.6%

29%

Graduate dips/certs

12%

5.1%

17%

15%

4.5%

20%

Honours*

25%

6.3%

31%

27%

15%

42%

Masters degrees

11%

0.8%

12%

8.2%

1.6%

10%

More variation in progression rates 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.

The pattern of higher further study rates for domestic graduates completing certificates is visible by field of study.  Figure 6 shows the top five highest progression rates to further study by field of study for three broad qualification groups.  The total rate for each group is also shown.  For graduates with a bachelors or higher qualification the further study rates refers to study at the same and lower levels.

The fields of study shown in Figure 6 are broad fields except for nursing and law which are classified as narrow fields.  Nursing has been excluded from the broad field of health and law has been excluded from the broad field of society and culture.  Society and culture featured in each qualification group as this broad field includes a wide range of narrow fields.

Figure 6: Five-year further study rates by field of study (highest rates for domestic graduates)

Higher further study rates for level 1 to 3 certificates in natural and physical sciences

Domestic graduates completing a level 1 to 3 certificate from 2008 to 2012 in natural and physical sciences had the highest further study rates.  In 2017, the five-year rate was 98 percent.  Eighty percent of these graduates progressed to a higher qualification level, while 18 percent continued study at the same level.

Over the last 10 years, the first-year progression rate to higher-level study for graduates with a level 1 to 3 certificate in natural and physical sciences has been about 70 percent.

Graduates completing level 1 to 3 certificates in creative arts and information technology also had high further study rates.  In 2017, the five-year rates were 87 percent for information technology and 84 percent for creative arts.

Over the last 10 years, the first-year progression rate to higher-level study has been about 40 percent for graduates completing certificates in creative arts. For graduates completing certificates in information technology in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the first-year higher-level progression rate was about 30 percent, 10 percentage points lower than in previous years.

Highest further study rates for level 4 to 7 diplomas and certificates in natural and physical sciences

Graduates completing at level 4 to 7 from 2008 to 2012 in natural and physical sciences had a similar pattern of further study rates to those completing at level 1 to 3.  In 2017, the five-year rate was 82 percent.  The first-year progression rate to higher-level study was 53 percent in 2017.

Graduates completing a level 4 to 7 diploma or certificate in creative arts and society and culture (excl. law) had further five-year study rates ranging from about 60 percent to 70 percent.

Nursing graduates had the highest further study rates in 2012 at bachelors and above

Sixty-five percent of graduates completing a degree or higher nursing qualification in 2012 went onto further study by 2017.  Of these graduates, 56 percent continued study at the same level, while 9.3 percent studied at a lower level.

Graduates completing a degree or higher qualification in natural and physical sciences and society and culture (excl. law) had a similar pattern of further study as nursing graduates.  Graduates completing at this level in law also had high further study rates. However, of the law graduates completing in 2012, 37 percent continued study at a lower level in order to meet professional requirements and only 19 percent studied at the same 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. Among these are the labour market conditions at the time of completion.1 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 7 below shows that people with a bachelors or higher qualification have the lowest unemployment rates.  Also, men with a level 1 to 6 diploma or certificate as their highest qualification, have lower unemployment rates than women with this level of qualification.

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.

The declining unemployment rates from 2013 onwards were accompanied by decreases in the five-year progression rates for people completing a bachelors degree in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  For those with a level 1 or 2 certificate the progression rates increased in recent years. See Figure 5.

Figure 7: Unemployment rates by gender and qualification level (grey bars indicate economic recession period - March year)

Notes: 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.

Where to find out more

The following article examines the educational outcomes of students who enrolled in a level 1 to 3 certificates.  It looks at the factors that influence progression to further study of various groups of students:

The following indicators should also be looked at in conjunction with tertiary graduate progression rates.

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.

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