Universities are a vital part of modern society. They are important for teaching, research and the advancement of society as a whole. Universities engage with a range of stakeholders to promote learning and to disseminate and apply knowledge. With a focus on research excellence, universities play an important role in the economic transformation and development of New Zealand.
Universities are repositories of knowledge and expertise. They focus on advanced learning with the principal aim of developing intellectual independence and strengthening research outcomes. New Zealand universities’ teaching and research foster international connectedness and provide global learning opportunities for local and overseas students.
Eight universities across New Zealand deliver an extensive range of degree and post-graduate programmes, and some sub-degree programmes.
The Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) defines the core roles and expectations for universities as:
In 2012, universities received $1.4 billion – 53 percent of total government funding for tertiary education organisations
|Core roles||Government expectations|
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Universities contribute to TES priorities by:
Universities’ Investment Plans aim to fulfil these roles and expectations with special emphasis on lifting course and qualification completions and other achievement rates, especially among the priority groups of Māori, Pasifika and those aged under 25 years.
In 2012, university sector highlights included:
Universities received the highest proportion of the Government’s total spending on tertiary education organisations: $1.4 billion or 53 percent in 2012. Overall, the university sector continued to strengthen its performance in 2012. Improved overall successful course completion and qualification completion rates translated to improvements across youth, Māori and Pasifika student groups. Research performance, as measured by the allocation of the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), again exceeded other sectors, with 97 percent going to universities.
In 2012, universities generally delivered well against agreed 2012 Investment Plan commitments. Key factors affecting their operating environment included:
In line with TES priorities, higher-level enrolments continued to increase across the university sector in 2012
Compared with 2011, there was an increase of 561 EFTS and a drop of 992 students in 2012. These enrolment changes are mainly attributable to a larger proportion of enrolments enrolling at higher levels of study (Levels 7–8 up 736 EFTS, Levels 9–10 up 125 EFTS) (see figure 17). Enrolments at Levels 1–2 also increased in 2012 by 293 EFTS, as a result of the merger between Lincoln University and Telford Rural Polytechnic, which delivers programmes at Levels 1–2 that have not traditionally been provided by universities. Over the same period, there were decreases in the volume of enrolments across Levels 3–4 (95 EFTS, down 6%) and Levels 5–6 (237 EFTS, down 10%). The enrolment movements are in line with TES priorities and reflect the university sector’s continued emphasis on increasing participation at higher levels, especially post-graduate study. As in the previous year, the university sector continued to contribute 80 percent of the programmes at degree-level and above across all tertiary sectors in 2012.
Māori enrolments increased by 361 EFTS compared with 2011 but remained as a 10 percent share of total enrolments across the university sector. Pasifika students remained at 6 percent of the university population, while the volume of Pasifika enrolments increased by 305 EFTS (see figure 18).
The distribution of enrolments across the subject areas remained steady in 2012. Society and Culture (29%), Management and Commerce (15%) and Natural and Physical Sciences (14%) were the fields of study with the largest proportions of enrolments (see figure 19). The largest increases in fields of study were in Health (up by 399 EFTS) and Agriculture, Environmental and Related Studies (up by 355 EFTS), the latter primarily attributable to the 2011 merger of Telford Rural Polytechnic with Lincoln University.
Average educational performance by the universities improved in terms of qualification completion (up from 75% in 2011 to 80% in 2012), student retention (up from 79% in 2011 to 82% in 2012) and student progression within Levels 1–4 (up from 40% in 2011 to 62% in 2012). Course completion remained at the same level (86%) as in the previous year, which was the highest rate of any sector.
In 2012, average course and qualification completion rates increased across the university sector
Achievement by all students and the TES priority groups (Māori, Pasifika and students under the age of 25) strengthened across the university sector in 2012. In general, course completion rates remained at similar levels to the previous year but student retention and qualification completion rates increased across each group (see figure 20).
TES Priority: Increasing the number of young people (aged under 25) achieving qualifications at Level 4 and above, particularly degrees
In 2012, universities continued to attract the largest share of students under 25 years of age, with this group accounting for 73 percent of all university enrolments. Almost all youth enrolments were at degree level and above (96%) with relative proportions mainly unchanged over the past two years (see figure 21).
Overall, the number of youth enrolments increased in 2012 (by 1,053 EFTS or 1%), reflecting the overall trend to higher level enrolment trend for youth. Enrolment across degree and post-graduate level study increased in 2012 (Level 7 and above up by 1,281 EFTS or 2%), while the number of enrolments decreased at Levels 3–4 (down by 66 EFTS) and Levels 5–6 (down by 91 EFTS). However, a small increase occurred in participation at Levels 1–2 for the university sector due to provision at Lincoln University at this level following the university’s merger with Telford Rural Polytechnic.
Youth achievement continued to improve in 2012, with increases in qualification completion (up from 68% in 2011 to 72% in 2012), student retention (up from 84% in 2011 to 87% in 2012) and student progression Levels 1–4 (up from 58% in 2011 to 75% in 2012). Course completion (86%) remained at the same level as in the previous year. Youth achievement at Level 4 and above across the university sector improved across each of the educational performance indicators.
TES Priority: Increasing the number of Māori students enjoying success at higher levels
In 2012, Māori enrolments increased by 361 EFTS but remained proportionally at the same level of university enrolments (10%) as in the previous year. The distribution of Māori enrolments demonstrated a shift toward higher level qualifications with more enrolments at Level 7 and above and fewer at Levels 3–6 (see figure 22). The exception to this was an increase in the number of enrolments at Levels 1–2 due to the increases at Lincoln University outlined above.
Māori participation and achievement increased across the university sector
Educational achievement by Māori students continued to strengthen in 2012. Increases occurred in qualification completion rates (up from 62% in 2011 to 68% in 2012), student retention (up from 71% in 2011 to 75% in 2012) and student progression (up from 40% in 2011 to 61% in 2012), while course completion remained at the same level (80%) as in the previous year (see figure 23).
TES Priority: Increasing the number of Pasifika students achieving at higher levels
Pasifika student enrolments increased in 2012 (by 305 EFTS) while the proportion of students remained stable at 6 percent of total enrolments, the same as in the previous five years. The distribution of Pasifika students across the levels of study remained similar to 2011, with the majority of the increase evident at Levels 7–8, which accounted for 87 percent of all Pasifika enrolments.
Average Pasifika educational achievement improved from 2011 but remained below the overall student achievement rate. This was reflected in course completion and qualification completion rates (see figure 24), which saw the largest improvement in 2012 compared with other student groups. Successful course completion increased from 71 percent in 2011 to 72 percent in 2012, and qualification completion increased from 54 percent in 2011 to 60 percent in 2012. Pasifika student progression rose from 80 percent in 2011 to 83 percent in 2012 and student retention increased from 73 percent in 2011 to 76 percent in 2012.
TES Priority: Strengthening research outcomes
The university sector produced 3,678 research degree completions and generated $406.9 million in external research income
Funding for the PBRF is allocated according to three elements: quality evaluation, research degree completions and external research income. Universities received 97 percent of the indicative PBRF funding in 2012.
The university sector’s research degree completions rose from 3,452 (97%) of the national total in 2011 to 3,678 out of a total 3,825 (96%) in 2012. The sector generated $406.9 million in external research income in 2012, more than 99 percent of the total, but a slight decrease from 2011.
In 2012, the university sector achieved a modest increase in total income primarily driven by the increase in student tuition fees income (domestic and international) and total government funding. However, the university sector net surplus (after unusual items) decreased by $84.1 million since 2011. This was primarily due to significant unusual expense items incurred by the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University of $60.5 million. As a result, the university sector did not achieve the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) recommended three percent surplus guideline in 2012.
Total operating expenses increased by $93.7 million (3.0%), reflecting both increased personnel and other operating costs. Across the sector, net assets increased by $17.5 million (0.3%) in 2012; this relatively modest increase was largely due to ongoing impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes. The university sector still maintained a net assets base of over $5.8 billion. University balance sheets remained strong but with declining liquidity (see table 4).
|Key performance metrics||2010||2011||2012||TEC minimum |
|Net surplus (after unusual and non-recurring items)||4.1%||4.1%||1.4%||3.0%|
|Net cashflow from operations||116.6%||115.9%||115.7%||111.0%|
|3-Year average return on property, plant, equipment and intangibles||6.1%||6.5%||6.6%||4.5%|
|Summary financial statements |
|2010||2011||2012||% of 2012 |
|Total government revenue||$1,344,780||$1,403,568||$1,425,287||43%|
|Domestic student fees||$559,708||$565,257||$591,567||18%|
|International student fees||$277,951||$287,723||$306,700||9%|
|Other income |
|Property, plant, equipment and intangibles||$6,112,711||$6,220,126||$6,269,650||88%|
|Equity (net assets)||$5,886,263||$5,871,739||$5,888,795|
* This summary is based on data submitted to the TEC by individual universities as part of the TEC’s financial monitoring framework.
Universities received around half of total government funding for tertiary education organisations in 2012 ($1.4 billion or 53%). Of the Government funding allocated by the TEC, 79 percent ($1.1 billion) was for Teaching and Learning and 19 percent ($276.2 million) was for Research (see figure 25).
In 2013, universities expected to focus on the following key areas to support TES priorities: