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Enriching knowledge and understanding

The creation, maintenance and dissemination of knowledge through research and teaching is critical to a university’s mission.

Through teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, nurturing academic disciplines and through the research output of academic staff, New Zealand universities help create, maintain and disseminate knowledge across a wide variety of fields of study.

In addition to a strong commitment to science, technology, engineering, health, agriculture and the built and natural environment, New Zealand’s universities enrich social and cultural understanding through research and through teaching and learning in the arts, humanities and social sciences. University-level education and research makes a long-lasting contribution to society and cultural understanding, benefitting both the individual and the country as a whole.

Some key facts

  • 177,905 total students.1
  • 138,190 full-time equivalent students (EFTS).2
  • 31.5% of students (56,085) are studying at postgraduate level.1
  • 144,010 domestic students and 33,900 international students.1
  • 17,245 Māori students (12% of domestic students) and 13,010 Pasifika students (9% of domestic students).1
  • 44,000 graduates annually - 90% at bachelor’s degree level or above.2
  • 88% of New Zealanders 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.3
  • In 2019, universities spent about $1.17 b on research.4
  • Universities generate around a quarter (24.7%) of all research in NZ.5
  • Universities drive 65% of all of NZ’s basic research expenditure and 25% of applied research expenditure.5
  • Home to around 30,000 researchers - about 70% of all of New Zealand’s researchers (including postgraduate research students).5
  • The stock of all knowledge generated by NZ universities, and adopted across the wider economy, accounts for around 8.2% to 9.7% of GDP.6

Want to know more?

[1]Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics. Participation. Provider based enrolments and Full-Time equivalent enrolments. Ministry of Education. 2019 data (Updated June 2020).

[2] Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics.  Retention and achievement. Provider based qualification attainment. Ministry of Education. 2019 data (Updated June 2020).

[3] Statistics New Zealand, 2015. “New Zealand General Social Survey: 2014”. Table 6: Selected NZGSS measures by highest qualification, April 2014-March 2015.

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

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

[6] NZIER, 2020. Draft Report “Economic impact of universities: Updated contribution to growth”. (Note: report based on 2018 data).

 Links to more resources