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Driving research and innovation

Research is critical to the operation and mission of New Zealand universities. New Zealand’s eight universities spend over $1.17 annually on research, accounting for 56% of New Zealand’s basic research and 22% of applied research.1

Over the past two decades, our universities have placed increased focus on innovation and generate $600m-700m each year through the commercialisation of university research (about 16% of total university income).2

University research is vital to New Zealand. It produces new knowledge and disseminates that knowledge through: research- informed teaching that produces knowledgeable graduates; publications that makes knowledge readily available to others; research collaborations with industry, government and others in higher education; public lectures, debates, articles and other forms of media communication that aim to educate and inform the public; consulting services, patents and other intellectual property that are made available to industry on a commercial basis.

Universities train and nurture the country’s future researchers and innovators who go on to apply their skills and knowledge in other organisations. NZ universities produce about 44,000 graduates each year (88% at Bachelor’s degree level or higher; 3.4% at PhD level) and are home to around 70% of the country’s current researchers.1,3

UNZ's Research Committee provides advice to Universities New Zealand on any issue related to research or research policy in universities. 

Some key facts

  • 1,400+ PhD students graduate from Universities, about half of them international PhD graduates.3
  • Half of all international PhD students say they plan to work in NZ after graduation – most in education and training, healthcare and science and technology.4 About 40% are employed in NZ, in their first post study year, 32-34% remain employed in NZ after three years post study.3
  • $960m+ spent by universities on research annually.1
  • $500 -$600 m generated each year through commercialising university research - about 16% of total university income.2
  • Universities account for around 25% of New Zealand’s R&D expenditure.4
  • Universities drive 56% of all of NZ’s basic research expenditure and 22% of applied research expenditure.1
  • Around 47% of university research expenditure is on primary industries, energy, Manufacturing, health, environment, and our economic framework.1
  • Home to more than 30,000 researchers - 70% of all of New Zealand’s researchers (including postgraduate research students).1

Want to know more?

[1] Statistics New Zealand, 2018. “Research and Development Survey: 2018" (revised).

[2] Summary of 2019 annual audited accounts of universities, Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara. .

[3]  Education counts, Tertiary Statistics, Ministry of Education, 2019 data (updated  June 2020)

[4]  Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand, 2012. “Extended Baseline Report: Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand, 4 April 2012”.

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