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Enriching knowledge and understanding

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

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

As well as 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 teaching and learning in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

University-level education and research make a long-lasting contribution to society and cultural understanding, benefiting both individuals and the country as a whole.

Key facts

  • 182,900 total students.1
  • 142,700 equivalent full-time students.1
  • 35.5% of students (64,900) are studying at postgraduate level.1
  • 156,900 domestic students and 26,000 international students.1
  • 19,600 Māori students (13% of domestic students) and 14,500 Pacific students (9% of domestic students).1
  • 45,300 graduates annually – 95% 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 and better self-rated health, and are more accepting of diversity.3
  • In 2020, universities spent around $1.1 billion on research.4
  • Universities generate around a quarter (24%) of all research in New Zealand.4
  • Universities drive 63% of all of New Zealand’s basic research spending and 21% of applied research spending.4
  • Home to around 16,000 researchers – around 57% of all of New Zealand’s researchers (including postgraduate research students).5
  • The stock of all knowledge generated by New Zealand universities, and adopted across the wider economy, accounts for around 8.2% to 9.7% of gross domestic product.5

Want to know more?

[1] Education Counts, Tertiary Statistics, Tertiary Participation, provider-based enrolments and provider-based equivalent full-time students, Ministry of Education, 2021 data (updated June 2022).

[2] New Zealand General Social Survey: 2014, Stats NZ, 2015. Table 6: Selected NZGSS measures by highest qualification, April 2014–March 2015.

[3] Summary of 2021 annual audited accounts of universities, Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara. 

[4] Research and development survey: 2020, Stats NZ.

[5] "Economic impact of universities: Updated contribution to growth” draft report (New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, 2020). (Note: report based on 2018 data.)

University research websites