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Achieving excellent graduate outcomes

New Zealand universities are committed to achieving excellent graduate outcomes for the approximately 43,000 students who graduate from our universities each year. For the great majority of our graduates, a university education is time and money well spent. New Zealand university graduates have very high rates of employment by international standards. Most end up in degree-level jobs and have exceptionally high levels of employment throughout their careers. Research backs up students’ decision-making, showing that a university education pays off, with earnings premiums continuing to grow as students move through the workplace and as they achieve higher levels of qualifications. We have nationally and internationally high qualification completion rates, with students graduating in areas that will enrich their future as well as NZ’s regional and national economy and society.

Some key facts

  • 43,000+ students graduate from NZ universities each year – 91% at bachelor’s degree level and above. 1
  • A typical bachelor’s degree graduate will earn around $1.38m more over their working life than a non-graduate. 2
  • Median weekly earnings of graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher qualification are 161% higher than those without any qualifications. 3
  • University course completion rates are the highest in the tertiary education sector – 86% compared with 80% for students studying at a private training establishment (PTE) and 77% for polytechnic/ITP and wānanga students.3
  • A degree pays off by the age of 33 i.e. where net additional earnings from a degree exceed the costs of getting a degree and the income lost while studying. 2
  • 8.5 years’ median time to pay off student loan for bachelor’s degree graduates (who left study in 2015). 4
  • The unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification is approximately 3%. i.e. half the unemployment rate for all 25 – 29 year olds. 3,5
  • 32% of New Zealanders aged 25-64 years have a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification – around the same as the Australia and Canada. 6
  • Half of university bachelor’s degree students are now studying science, technology, engineering, health or the environment. 7
  • 88% of NZers with a degree or higher qualification have high levels of satisfaction with life compared with 83% of those with lower level qualifications and 77% of those with no qualifications. Degree holders also have higher levels of trust, a greater sense of purpose, better self-rated health and are more accepting of diversity. 8

Related news

Want to know more?

[1] Education Counts 2016 tertiary statistics – Retention and AchievementUpdated August 2018.

[2] Universities New Zealand graduate outcomes analysis, 2015. Census 2013 data. 

[3] Ministry of Education, 2017. “Profile & Trends Part 2: Tertiary Education Outcomes and Qualification Completions”. Page 34. Updated September 2017.

[4] Ministry of Education et al, 2017. “Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2017”. Updated December 2017.

[5] Statistics New Zealand, 2017. “Labour Market Statistics”.

[6] OECD, 2017. "Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators". Table A1.1. Updated September 2017.

[7] Education Counts 2016 tertiary statistics – ParticipationUpdated September 2017.

[8] Statistics New Zealand, 2015. “New Zealand General Social Survey: 2014”.

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