University Vice-Chancellors today congratulated Chris Hipkins on his appointment as Minister of Education as well as Associate Ministers of Education Kelvin Davis, Jenny Salesa, and Tracey Martin, and Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Dr Megan Woods.

Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Chair of Universities New Zealand, says, “We look forward to working with Ministers and the coalition government to progress key priorities to benefit New Zealand and New Zealanders.

“Universities are key drivers of New Zealand’s economic growth and social well-being. All eight universities are well placed to be part of the solution to help resolve key challenges facing the country including sustainable economic development, increased exports, a healthy environment, and a fair and equitable society, to improve the well-being of all New Zealanders.

“We know that a university degree is a good investment for graduates and their families and whānau.  Graduates earn more, 98% are employed, and they are happier and healthier than school leavers.  They also provide New Zealand’s future thinkers, leaders, citizens, parents, employers and employees that underpin a well-functioning society.

“University researchers and experts are already addressing the pressing issues New Zealand faces and can inform policy setting and decision-making to progress government and coalition priorities including education, social development, health, economy, and the environment.”

In addition, New Zealand’s universities can support the priorities of the coalition Government by

  • Working in schools to improve social mobility – particularly improving access for those who are first in family to attend university and increasing the number of young Māori and Pasifika students achieving university entrance and starting university.  Universities therefore welcome the appointment of an Associate Minister of Māori Education to focus on these issues.
  • Growing the regions by lifting educational attainment of groups traditionally under-represented at university and by generating and transferring knowledge that benefits regional communities and their economies. Universities are among the largest employers and creators of jobs in the regions where they are located.
  • Advising on migration changes to ensure New Zealand attracts genuine, high-quality international students.
  • Advising on student study and accommodation support so it is set at an appropriate level and reaches those most in need.

New Zealand has a world-class university system delivering high-quality teaching, learning and research. But Professor McCutcheon warns that it faces challenges after years of being underfunded – sitting below the OECD average.

“Instead our universities are funded amongst a range of countries we do not traditionally compare ourselves against, including Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey.”

This funding drop has seen a sustained drop in international rankings which affect universities’ ability to attract and retain world-class academics, carry out leading research, and attract international students which universities are overly reliant on financially.

Universities have come under further financial pressure over the past decade through a proliferation of relatively costly initiatives and unfunded mandates, while still being required to deliver a 3% surplus annually.

Professor McCutcheon says, “We look forward to working with government to discuss and resolve these issues and enable universities to contribute to New Zealand and New Zealand’s success.”

Key facts about the university sector

  • Teaching and learning –  Surveys tracking student satisfaction with their teaching consistently show results well in excess of 80%.  New Zealand universities have the best qualification completion rates of any country we compare ourselves to.  And, with around 2% of university graduates on benefits and only 11% in jobs that probably do not require a degree level qualification, we also have some of the best graduate outcomes of any developed country.
  • Opportunity and social mobility – 32% of New Zealand’s youth now start university within a few years of leaving school.  Though still under-represented in university study, 12% of Māori youth and 19% of Pasifika youth start university from school.  Graduates earn more, enjoy better employment prospects and produce a range of economic and social benefits for their families and communities.
  • Research – Universities carry out about a third of this country’s research.  In 2016 NZIER calculated that 8.2% to 9.7% of NZ’s GDP can be attributed to knowledge generated in New Zealand universities.
  • International Education – Universities generate 28% of the revenues associated with international education – New Zealand’s fourth largest export market.  On average, each international student that universities bring to this country spend $168,000 on fees, accommodation, and other living expenses while they study in New Zealand.  At least 4,500 jobs exist in New Zealand because of international students studying at our universities.
  • Jobs and economic activity – Universities directly employ around 20,000 people and turn over $3.6 billion annually (approximately 1% of GDP).  There are further significant economic, social and cultural benefits that flow through to the communities that house universities.


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