Tertiary education includes all post-secondary education including higher and vocational education. It is the third level of education.
Tertiary education in New Zealand is delivered by a variety of providers: universities, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), Private Training Establishments (PTEs), Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) and Wänanga. These all deliver a variety of educational options, often in flexible ways to meet the needs of adult learners.
Tertiary education providers offer courses which range from transition (school to work) programmes, through to postgraduate study and research. There are no fixed divisions between the types of courses offered by each sort of provider. The focus is on their ability to offer education to the required quality standards, rather than based on their type.
- Higher, degree-level education is mainly offered at universities. Programmes are research-led and generally academic, as distinct from vocational.
- Vocational degree level education is offered at ITPs, wänanga and a few larger PTEs. Such degrees tend to be specific and applied.
- PTEs’ programmes are mostly in specific vocational niches at certificate and diploma level.
Direction and funding
Government partly funds state tertiary institutions. Students need to contribute about 30 percent of the cost of their courses.
New Zealand students can borrow a student loan from the government to pay for their courses until they are earning.
All the providers operate in an environment of decentralised governance and management. To ensure the most effective use of its funding, government encourages sector cooperation.
The government states its priorities for tertiary education in its Tertiary Education Strategy. The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) funds tertiary providers based on agreed enrolments and contestable grants. The emphasis is on working in partnership to develop investment plans focused on educational outcomes and how they can be achieved.
Agreed plans are then funded accordingly and the TEC monitors providers against the stated outcomes.
Investment plans take into account student demand, labour market conditions, what employers are saying about the skills they need, and the government’s economic transformation agenda.
Participation rates in tertiary education have been rising steadily. It is estimated that 13.3% of the population aged 15 years and over participated in some type of formal tertiary study at some time in 2007.
Enrolments by Mäori and Pacific people in tertiary education have all greatly increased in recent years, and government policy seeks to further improve participation and achievement in under-represented population groups.
Government limits tertiary fee increases. In 2000 the average full year, full-time tuition fee at tertiary institutions was equivalent to nearly six weeks’ gross income for a person employed on an average wage. In 2007 it was less than four weeks.
Tertiary providers include both public and privately owned institutions. New Zealand’s public providers, known as tertiary education institutions (TEIs) operate under one national system.
- eight universities with emphasis on academic education
- 20 state owned ITPs with emphasis on vocational education
- three wänanga (education delivered within a Mäori context)
- 40 Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).
New Zealand also has 11 government agencies recognised as Government Training Establishments (GTEs) because they provide education and training for significant numbers of their employees. The New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Army are examples of GTEs.
At any one time there are between 700 and 800 registered Private Training Establishments (PTEs), including registered private English language schools. The academic year for most tertiary institutions starts in February and finishes in November. It is most often divided into two semesters but a third, “summer”, semester is becoming increasingly popular.