New Zealand’s tertiary education system is a significant national asset that has been built up over generations. It is supported by the Government mainly through the direct Student Achievement Component (SAC) funding, the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), student allowances and student loans. In the 2015/16 financial year, the Government is spending around $5 billion on tertiary education and research, including more than $2.8 billion in direct funding to tertiary education organisations (TEOs), and $2 billion on student allowances and loans. The tertiary education institutions (TEIs), which are Crown entities, collectively manage around $10 billion in total assets.
As outlined in the Government’s Tertiary Education Strategy (TES), an effective tertiary education system underpins New Zealand’s ability to prosper economically and build a strong society. The skills and knowledge people gain through tertiary education improve their chances of employment and increase their earnings. Higher education levels have been linked to better general well-being, better health and greater social mobility. Tertiary education plays a vital role in democracy by promoting freedom of thought and expression.
A large supply of skilled labour allows the economy as a whole to move to a more productive footing. New Zealand’s tertiary education system generates many of the ideas that lead to innovation. Together, skills and innovation enable improved production, thereby promoting growth and New Zealand’s ability to compete internationally.
New Zealand’s culture is enriched through tertiary education’s role in theatre, dance, music, literature and art. Tertiary education helps to transmit the wider culture, including āhuatanga Māori (Māori tradition) and tikanga Māori (Māori custom), within society and between generations. It can serve to raise the consciousness of the population about the environment. The tertiary education system also links New Zealand to the outside world, both through the exchange of knowledge and skills and through the flow of students.