Qualification completions

Tuesday October 10, 2017 Fiona Stokes

Annual data on the tertiary sector indicates one in two New Zealanders tertiary qualified


Education Counts publishes an annual data series on the tertiary education sector as a series of reports entitled Profile and Trends.


This data series focuses on key findings in areas of interest to the Government, the public sector, education providers, and economic research companies like BERL. It is always interesting to know how many students, trainees and apprentices are doing what, where, and when, even if the data does not always answer the why question.


The parents among us would say the answer to the why question is the outcomes focus of any analysis on students and graduates. But for those of us who have undertaken any form of tertiary study we know the outcome of studying is often broader than getting better at something or getting a job! These ponderings aside, data on the tertiary education sector is interesting and worth sharing.


The focus of this discussion is on students who enrolled to complete a qualification at a tertiary education provider, not trainees and apprentices that are engaged in industry training. Information on workplace training is available, but here we will discuss the approximately 140,000 students who complete a tertiary qualification in New Zealand each year. This is an approximate number as some students may complete more than one qualification in the same year. Also, the data is for the year ending December 2016 and is a combination of information from the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission and Statistics New Zealand.


The proportion of the population over the age of 15 that do not have a qualification has decreased since 2013. Approximately one in two New Zealanders is now tertiary qualified and one in four New Zealanders has a bachelors degree.




The largest proportion of the population with a bachelors degree in 2016 were peopled aged 25 to 34 years old, at 39 percent, while 36 percent of the population aged 35 to 44 years old had a bachelors degree or higher.


However, one in five New Zealanders over the age of 15 do not have a qualification and the unemployment rate among people with no qualifications was approximately 8.2 percent in 2016. This is higher than the unemployment rate for people with school qualifications, at 6.6 percent, and for people who have a bachelors degree or higher qualification, at 2.9 percent.


In 2016, the median weekly earnings of people with a bachelors or higher qualification was 161% higher than for those without a qualification. For people with a school qualification, their weekly earnings was just 16.5% higher than a person with no qualification. The difference in median weekly and hourly earnings premiums vary annually, and is influenced by what is happening in the labour market and the demand for skills and experience versus qualifications. Despite this difference, people with higher qualifications earn more on an hourly and weekly basis.


The number of qualifications that are completed each year varies, depending on the number of students previously enrolled in a qualification and the length of time it takes to complete a qualification. The overall completion rate can also be influenced by the number of international students that are completing qualifications, particularly as the number of international students studying and completing qualifications in New Zealand has grown over the last 10 years.


Course completion data is available on students who studied full and part-time, and it considers the length of time it takes for students to complete a qualification. The number of people completing Level 1 to 4 Certificates has remained fairly stable since 2011. In contrast the number of people completing higher level qualifications such as Level 5 to 7 Diplomas and Certificates has increased since 2005. Course completion rates for students undertaking a bachelors degree was 85 percent in 2016, and higher among those undertaking graduate diplomas and certificates, honours qualifications and masters degrees. Here, the course completion rates were around 90 percent. The course completion rates for students completing a bachelor degree either part or full-time have increased, with 74 percent of full-time students completing their degree within six years.


Overall, the data indicates that people with higher level qualifications have higher rates of participation in the labour force. For example, 82 percent of women with a bachelors or higher qualification participated in the labour force in 2016, compared with 72 percent of women with a level 4 to 6 diploma or certificate. In addition, people with a bachelors or higher qualification had higher rates of labour force participation, higher median incomes, and lower rates of unemployment.


Over the last 10 years, the proportion of women with higher level qualifications has grown as more women shift from having lower lower-level qualifications to higher-level qualifications. In addition, more females than males completed qualifications in 2016, and this trend is one that has continued over the last 10 years.


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With an increase in qualifications there has also been an increase in the proportion of females participating in the New Zealand labour force.