New Zealand’s universities are large institutions, collectively employing approximately 21,500 full-time staff and turning over $4.15 billion annually.1 The universities teach around 178,000 students and produce around 44,000 graduates each year (88% at bachelor’s degree level or higher).2 Universities spend around $1.17 billion on research and are home to 70% of the country’s researchers.1,3 National and international evidence suggests that investing in universities is a positive way to grow an economy.
Universities, their staff, graduates and educational and research activities form an important backbone to the New Zealand economy. Universities train and produce highly-skilled workers. They produce research that underpins new growth and development. They nurture and develop the country’s future researchers and innovators.
Well-regarded universities, such as New Zealand’s eight universities, attract talented staff and students from across the country and around the world, with positive flow-on effects for the regions that house them and for the country as a whole. Universities make a significant contribution to the regions that house them, their contribution representing up to 6.3% of regional GDP, counting University and student spending that contributes directly to regional GDP.4
Some key facts:
- 177,905 students in 2019, including 113,425 Bachelor's students (64%), 56,085 post-graduate students (31.5%), and 33,900 international students (19%).2
- 138,190 full-time equivalent students [EFTS] in 2019, including 92,360 Bachelor EFTS (67%), 38,105 post-graduate EFTS (27.5%), and 25,870 international EFTS (18.7%).2
- Across the university sector, 44.6% of income comes from government tuition grants, government research funding and the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF); 30.6% from student fees (domestic and international); and 24.8% from other sources (non-student and non-government, including other funded research, commercialisation and trading revenue).1
- $4.1b total sector expenditure in 2019—around 1.4% of NZ’s gross domestic product.1,5
- Universities make a significant contribution to the regions that house them, representing up to 6.3% of regional GDP. The University of Auckland and its student spending contributes to 2.4% of Auckland’s regional GDP. This is 6.3% for the University of Otago and itsstudents.4
- International education generates at least $1.25 billion per year for New Zealand; universities’ earnings from export education represent 1.2 percent of all New Zealand’s exports of goods and services.5
- A 10% increase in higher education research spending will eventually increase GDP by 1.75% to 1.84%.5
- Universities account for 25% of New Zealand’s R&D expenditure, driving 56% of all of NZ’s basic research expenditure and 22% of applied research expenditure.6
- Around 53% of university research expenditure is on primary industries, manufacturing, construction and transport, health (24%) and cultural understanding.6
- NZ universities are home to around 26,000 researchers (70% of all of New Zealand’s researchers, including postgraduate research students).6
Want to know more?
 Statistics New Zealand, 2018. “Research and Development Survey: 2018 (revised)".