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Achieving excellent graduate outcomes

New Zealand universities are committed to achieving excellent graduate outcomes for the approximately 44,000 students who graduate from our universities each year. For most 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

  • 44,000+ students graduate from NZ universities each year – 88% at bachelor’s degree level and above.1
  • In general, degree holders can expect to earn another $1.37m over their working lives compared with people with only a high school qualification. An average master's graduate will earn $1.70m more than a school-leaver over their working life and an average PhD graduate around $1.92m.2
  • Median hourly earnings are 50% higher for NZers with a Bachelor's degree or higher qualification compared with those with no qualifications – more than twice the earnings premium of those with lower-level tertiary qualifications.1
  • A degree pays off by the age of 32, i.e. where net additional earnings from a degree exceed the cost of getting a degree and income foregone while studying.3
  • Unemployment rate for people with a Bachelor’s degree is approximately 2.4%, i.e. about 31% lower than the rate for people with tertiary certificate or diploma level 4-6 (3.5% in 2017).4
  • 42% of NZers aged 25-34 years have a Bachelor’s degree or higher – higher than Australia (41%), Canada (37%), United States (39%) and OECD average (37%).5
  • Over 41.1% of university Bachelor’s degree students are now studying science, technology, engineering, health, agriculture or the environment as their predominant field of study.6


    Want to know more?

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

    [2] Universities New Zealand graduate outcomes analysis, 2020. Census 2018 data. 

    [3] Education Counts, Financial support for students, Student Loan Annual Report 2019, Ministry of Education

    [4] Education counts, Unemployment rates by qualification level, Ministry of Education, December 2018.

    [5] Education at a Glance 2019. OECD, Indicator “Share of population by educational attainment, Table A1.1”

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

    Links to more resources

    Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand.

    OECD Education at a Glance 2017 Country Note – New Zealand