Research

Research funding and research performance in the New Zealand tertiary education system.

The following section summarises the key trends in the research performance of the tertiary education system. The funding of research at tertiary education organisations is also summarised.

What does the data show about research performance?

Doctoral degree enrolments

This data shows the number of students enrolling in doctoral degrees. Doctoral degrees include Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees and other professional doctorates (such as a Doctor of Education) but excludes higher doctorates (higher doctorates are awarded to researchers for independent work of special excellence which is completed before the person applies for the degree).

The data shows that:

  • The number of students enrolled in doctoral degrees increased by 1.8% in 2019, to reach 10,395. This is 17% higher than in 2014 and 40% higher than in 2009. In 2019, the number of international doctoral degree students increased by 3.1%, compared with an increase of 0.8% for domestic students.
  • In 2006, government policy was changed so that international doctor of philosophy students were charged domestic fees. This has contributed to a significant increase in enrolments at the doctoral degree level by international students. In 2019, international students made up 49% of all doctoral degree enrolments compared with 14% in 2005.

Figure 1: Doctoral degree enrolments

  • Between 2018 and 2019, the number of women enrolled in doctoral degrees increased by 3.8%, while the number of men decreased by 0.6%. The proportion of enrolments by women has continued to increase over time. In 2019, 54% of doctoral enrolments were by women, compared with 51% in 2009 and 46% in 1999.
  • The number of Māori and Pacific peoples enrolled in doctoral degrees has continued to rise in 2019.
    • Between 2018 and 2019, the number of domestic Māori students enrolled in doctoral degrees increased by 5.6%% to reach 665. In 2019, 12% of domestic doctoral degree enrolments were by Māori, compared with 7.8% in 2009 and 6.1% in 1999.
    • The number of Pacific peoples enrolled in doctoral degrees increased by 8.9% to reach 245. In 2019, 4.6% of domestic doctoral degree enrolments were by Pacific peoples, compared with 2.8% in 2009 and 1.4% in 1999.
  • The number of university doctoral degree students per academic full-time equivalent staff member was 1.74 in 2019, a slight increase on 1.73 in 2018. This figure was 1.28 in 2009, with the increase since then mainly a result of higher enrolments by international students.

Doctoral degree completions

This data looks at the number of students completing doctoral degrees. Doctoral degrees include Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees and other professional doctorates (such as a Doctor of Education) but excludes higher doctorates. Because of the long term nature of these qualifications the data can sometimes be lumpy and show considerable variation between years.

The data shows that:

  • The number of students completing doctoral degrees increased by 2.8% in 2019 to reach 1,480. The number of domestic doctoral completions decreased by 0.7% in 2019, while the number of international completions increased by 6.9%. Fifty-two percent of completions were by international students.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, the increase in doctoral degree completions was 3.4% for women and 2.1% for men. Fifty-one percent of completions were by women.
  • In terms of domestic students, in 2019 the number of Māori completing doctoral degrees was 50, down from 70 in 2018. The number of Pacific peoples completing a doctoral degree was 15, down from 25 in 2018.
  • The number of doctoral completions per academic was 0.25 in 2019, the same as the previous year.

Figure 2: Doctoral degree completions

Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) Quality Evaluation results

The PBRF Quality Evaluations assess the quality of research produced by participating tertiary education organisations via peer review. These assessments currently take place every six years, the latest of these took place in 2018. The results showed that in the universities:

  • The peer reviewed quality of research at New Zealand universities has been increasing over time. For example, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff awarded an ‘A’ quality category (expected to contain evidence of research outputs of a world class standard) in the 2018 PBRF Quality Evaluation was 1,159, compared with 831 in 2012 and 597 in 2006.
Bibliometric performance of New Zealand universities

The bibliometric data presented here uses articles and reviews published in indexed academic journals to look at the volume of research output by New Zealand universities, the rates of citation of this research, and rates of collaboration. Please refer to the Technical notes below for more information on the bibliometric measures and the caveats that apply to this form of data.

The bibliometric data showed that:

  • Rates of citation of research from the New Zealand universities have generally been rising over time compared with the world average. The Category Normalised Citation Impact (CNCI) measure was 1.30 in the 2013-17 five year period, compared with 1.08 in the 2001-05 five year period. A value of greater than 1 for the CNCI means that the average rate of citation of university research is above the world average.
  • Although rising over time, the CNCI for New Zealand universities was below that of Australian universities. In the 2013-17 five year period, the CNCI of 1.41 for Australian university research was above that of New Zealand universities (1.30).
  • Research by New Zealand universities represented 0.5% of world indexed journal articles and reviews in 2013-17. After increasing between 2001-05 and 2011-14 from 0.4% to 0.5%, the share of output has now stabilised at 0.5%. This compares with Australian universities, where their share of world indexed output has continued to rise.
  • Overall, rates of collaboration have been increasing over time. The percentage of articles and reviews produced by New Zealand universities that had inter-institutional collaboration has increased from 54% in 2001-05 to 67% in 2013-17. This increase in collaboration was slightly lower than was the case for Australian universities, where inter-institutional collaboration increased from 54% in 2001-05 to 71% in 2013-17.

Figure 3: Relative academic impact (CNCI) of New Zealand and Australian universities

Note: A CNCI > 1 means the average rate of citation is above the world average.

Source: Clarivate

What does the data show about research financing?

Vote Tertiary Education funding for research and research-led teaching

This funding includes money distributed via the PBRF, Centres of Research Excellence fund and Wānanga Capability Fund. The data shows that:

  • Total funding for research and research-led teaching was $366 million in 2019, the same as in 2018. This funding was dominated by the PBRF, which at $315 million represented 86% of funding in 2019.
  • Due to increases in the size of the PBRF and Centres for Research Excellence fund over time, Vote Tertiary Education research funding is now 32% higher than in 2009.
  • Universities continue to dominate the funding distributed via the PBRF. In 2019, 96.7% of PBRF funding was allocated to the universities, 2.7% to ITPs, 0.2% to wānanga and 0.4% to PTEs. The share of PBRF funding allocated to universities was 97.3% in 2009.

Figure 4: Vote Tertiary Education funding for research and research-led teaching

University external research contract income

This data shows the external research income (ERI) earned by universities. There are two sources for this information: the PBRF external research income measure (reported annually) and the Research and Development Survey (collected bi-annually). The data showed that:

  • The value of PBRF ERI earned by universities reached $582 million in 2018. On an inflation-adjusted basis, and also adjusting for the number of academic and research staff, ERI per full-time equivalent researcher increased by 9.5% in 2018 and was 32% higher than in 2013.
  • Data from the Research and Development Survey shows that the Government was the largest source of funding for universities. In 2017, around 78% of funding was sourced from Government. Funding via Government research purchase agencies (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, Health Research Council and the Royal Society) was the largest component of this category, with 49% of contract funding coming from this source in 2017.

Research and development expenditure

The Research and Development Survey also provides information on research and development expenditure by New Zealand universities. The data showed that:

  • Although university expenditure on research and development increased in the universities from $877 million in 2015 to $960 million in 2017, as a percentage of GDP this expenditure decreased slightly from 0.35% in 2015 to 0.34% in 2017.
  • Universities had much higher proportion of expenditure on Basic research than the overall research sector in New Zealand. In 2017, 56% was on Basic research, compared with 25% for the overall sector. The proportion of university research expenditure on Basic research has increased from 48% in 2009. At the same time, the proportion of expenditure on Applied research has decreased from 16% to 8%.
  • Expenditure on Health research continues to represent the largest proportion of university research and development expenditure. In 2017, 24% of expenditure was in this area followed by Cultural understanding (10%).

Research Performance Updated: August 2020

Statistics relating to the nature and amount of research undertaken in tertiary education.

Research Financing Updated: August 2020

Statistics relating to financing research undertaken in tertiary education.

Technical notes

  1. The bibliometric data here is limited to articles and reviews in Clarivate's Essential Science Indicators (ESI) dataset.
  2. While citations have become an increasingly common measure of research performance, there are reservations about their use and the results presented in this analysis need to be considered in the light of these caveats. Some of the most important (but by no means all) caveats are:
    1. The coverage of the social sciences and humanities in the Clarivate database – the most commonly used source of citations data – is not as extensive as coverage of the natural and medical sciences. In addition, publishing conventions in disciplines such as the humanities and social sciences may favour research outputs such as books and book chapters, which are not captured in the Clarivate database.
    2. The Clarivate database is mostly made up of English language journals based in North America and Europe. As such, research in New Zealand journals that may be of a high impact may be excluded from the Thomson Reuters database. In New Zealand, this may be a greater problem for applied fields of research and for research in the social sciences, where the research may be more focused on local problems and hence more likely to appear in local journals.
    3. Some of the citations may in fact refer to the source article in a negative way, meaning that some citations reflect a low opinion of the quality of the research. However, it is estimated that only around 7 percent of citations are negative.
    4. The CNCI is an average figure. Therefore, one or two highly cited papers can skew the relative academic impact figure upwards. This is especially a problem in cases where the number of papers is small.
    5. The small size of the New Zealand university sector, relative to other countries, can pose a problem in terms of the smaller number of publications the citation data is based on. The smaller the number of publications, the less stable the data can be.

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