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Strong endorsement for NZ university academic standards

20 July 2017 | media

An independent review released today has strongly endorsed the quality assurance system that sits across all New Zealand university academic programmes and qualifications.

The review was carried out by the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities (AQA) as part of a regular five-year review cycle.  The three-person panel included an international member.

Chris Whelan, the Executive Director of Universities New Zealand, says, “Under New Zealand’s legislation, the eight Vice-Chancellors have a collective statutory responsibility for the quality assurance of all new and existing courses and qualifications across the university sector.  This is a responsibility they take seriously as it underpins the quality and reputation of New Zealand’s university system.”

These powers are comparable to those exercised by NZQA for the rest of the tertiary sector.

“We are therefore pleased the report shows the system is working well for New Zealand and New Zealanders.  It found that the Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP), which has delegated authority to manage the quality assurance system, is operating effectively and has robust processes in place.

“The review confirms that CUAP has strong support from stakeholders from across the sector.”  This is a particularly important point as earlier this year the Productivity Commission had recommended a move to a self-accreditation system.  The review panel tested this recommendation with a range of stakeholders and found little support for it.

“It also makes some sensible recommendations to strengthen the system, which Vice-Chancellors will pick up in the coming months.”

These include expediting the speed and responsiveness of the system while retaining robustness, extending the appeals process, and considering other benchmarking options. Work is already underway to consider ways to provide greater leadership on emerging academic and professional issues.

“But perhaps the best measure to demonstrate the high-quality of our university system is its ability to attract and retain top academic staff and high-quality students from around the world.  In addition, students enjoy high course completion rates, high graduate employment rates, and a low rate of under-employment.  And, most tellingly, all eight universities are consistently ranked in the top 3% (500) of universities in the world. New Zealanders can get a world-class education here in New Zealand.”

Chris Whelan says, “These stellar achievements are only possible because our work is underpinned by a robust quality assurance system.”

The report is on our website


  • Universities New Zealand is the operating name of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.

  • CUAP is made up of senior academics from each of the eight universities, a Chair and Deputy Chair appointed by Universities NZ, and a student representative.  It is currently chaired by Derek McCormack, Vice-Chancellor of the Auckland University of Technology (AUT). 

  • The Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities (AQA) conducts regular reviews of individual universities as well as CUAP. The previous review of CUAP was in 2011.