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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 $870m annually on research, accounting for 65% of New Zealand’s basic research and 25% of applied research. Over the past two decades, our universities have placed increased focus on innovation and generate over $500m each year through the commercialisation of university research (about 15% of total university income). 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 that go on to apply their skills and knowledge in other organisations. NZ universities produce over 43,000 graduates each year (91% at bachelor’s degree level or higher; 3% at PhD level) and are home to around 70% of the country’s current researchers.

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

Some key facts

  • $870m+ spent by universities on research annually.1
  • 20% estimated annual return on university research.2
  • $500m + generated each year through commercialising university research - about 15% of total university income. 3
  • Universities account for around 28% of New Zealand’s R&D expenditure.4
  • Universities drive 65% of all of NZ’s basic research expenditure and 25% of applied research expenditure. 1
  • Over 60% of university research expenditure is on physical and information sciences, health, infrastructure and our economic framework. 1
  • Home to more than 27,000 researchers - 70% of all of New Zealand’s reseachers (including postgraduate research students). 1
  • The stock of all knowledge generated by NZ universities, and adopted across the wider economy, accounts for around 9% of GDP. 4
  • 173,880 students in 2016, including 51,575 postgraduate students (30%). 5
  • 16% of international students are studying at PhD level. 6
  • 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. 7
  • 73% of publications produced by NZ universities in 2011-15 were cited, compared to 69% in 2005-09 and 63% in 2001-05. 8
  • In the 2011-15 publication period, the rate of citation of research was 1.28 times the world average. 8

Related news 

Want to know more?

[1] Statistics New Zealand, 2017. “Research and Development Survey: 2016" (revised).

[2]  Deloitte Access Economics, 2015. “The economic contributions of Australia’s research universities – the UNSW example”.

[3]  University Commercialisation Offices of New Zealand, 2012. “University Research Commercialisation: Driving innovation and development”.

[4]  NZIER report to Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara, 2016. “Economic impact of universities: An analysis of the contribution of New Zealand universities to economic activity”.

[5]  Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics. ENR.10 “Domestic and international students by qualification level and sub-sector 2008-2015”. 2015 data.

[6]  Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics. ENR.26 “International students by sub-sector, region of citizenship and qualification level 2015.

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

[8]  Ministry of Education, 2017. "Profile and Trends: New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Research 2016".

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