Responding to the Tertiary Education Strategy

TES Priorities

Looking at each of the six TES priorities in turn, this section outlines various initiatives developed or implemented by the TEC in 2014 to give effect to the TES. Also described here are ways in which the sector responded to these TES priorities, ranging from collaborative work with the TEC to the adoption of interventions, sharing of good practice and improvement-focused targeted provision.

Priority 1: Delivering skills for industry

New Zealand’s labour force needs to have a range of technical and transferable skills that are well matched to labour market needs. These include skills for addressing new and emerging shortages in specific areas, such as information and communications technology (ICT) and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills needed for innovation and economic growth. This calls for more explicit co-operation between industry and TEOs to identify the types of skills most needed and how best to develop them. TEOs need to create opportunities for industry involvement in planning and delivering education, including re-skilling opportunities for the existing workforce, while industry will need to clearly identify its medium- and long-term needs, and attract and retain the talent it requires.

ICT Graduate Schools

To help address skill gaps and increase the number of highly skilled ICT graduates, Budget 2014 allocated $28.6 million over four years for an ICT Graduate School programme. The initiative will deliver industry-focused education and research built on collaborations between tertiary education providers and high-tech firms. Based in the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch regions, the three Schools will produce ICT graduates with work-relevant and business-focused skills; provide more direct pathways from education into employment; and help grow New Zealand’s ICT talent to support firm growth, innovation and productivity.

The TEC and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment commenced a tender process for selecting the operators of the ICT Graduate Schools in late 2014. It is expected that more than 350 EFTS per year will be delivered across all three Schools once they are fully established. Two ICT Graduate Schools were announced in July 2015, one in Auckland and one in the South Island. An announcement about the Wellington ICT Graduate School is expected shortly.

Engineering – Education to Employment project

The Government has set a goal of increasing the number of engineering graduates by an additional 500 per year from 2017 and has increased the tuition subsidy to help achieve this. The TEC has initiated the Engineering – Education to Employment (E2E) project in collaboration with providers and employers to raise awareness of engineering as a career; develop pathways into tertiary education from senior secondary school (including curriculum components); and ensure that the skills being taught are what industry needs.

In the second half of 2014, the Engineering E2E project group disseminated an infographic to engineering employers and education providers, which outlined research findings and indicated some key actions for the programme. Employers and tertiary providers are contributing a growing number of case studies of good practice to the project’s website (

Priority 2: Getting at-risk young people into a careerTop

Tertiary education plays a central role in equipping young people with the key employability skills and qualifications they need to begin a career. Those not in employment, education or training are the focus of this priority. One of the key interventions Youth Guarantee (YG), seeks to improve the outcomes of young Māori and Pasifika as a sub-set of the wider group this priority also serves.

Youth Guarantee

In 2014 128 providers delivered 9,596 YG EFTS (13,354 students). This was an increase in delivery of 2,090 EFTS (28%) compared with 2013. A significant portion of this growth was seen in the PTE sector which delivered almost 70 percent of the total EFTS to account for 71% of growth in the sector in 2014. Forty-six percent of YG enrolments in 2014 were Māori (similar to the 2013 proportion) and 20 percent were Pasifika (up two percentage points).

The 2014 year saw continued progress in YG educational performance with course and qualification completion rates showing improvement on 2013. Student retention and student progression were reported for the first time in 2014. On the whole, Pasifika learners performed well
compared with overall average educational achievement, while Māori learners performed below average.

Following the mid-stage review of YG completed by the Ministry of Education in 2014, the TEC implemented a number of policy changes to ensure that the programmes and providers best serve at-risk youth. These included introducing a prior achievement cap (no more than 20% of learners enrolled in a Level 1 or 2 qualification can have achieved a qualification at that level) and raising the funding cap for Level 3 provision to 30 percent of the total appropriation (to better enable progression opportunities for TEOs that do not currently offer Level 3 for YG).

Priority 3: Boosting achievement of Māori and PasifikaTop

All individuals from all backgrounds must have the opportunity to realise their talents through an inclusive tertiary education system that improves outcomes from study. The Government is seeking to further strengthen achievement from two key groups who will together represent 30 percent of New Zealanders by 2030: Māori and Pasifika. It is essential that TEOs improve delivery to these groups through culturally responsive provision and other meaningful practices or initiatives that engage these learners for success.

Initiatives to support Māori performance

In 2014 the TEC began to develop its flagship implementation strategy for Māori learners, Tū Māia e Te Ākonga, and it embedded high-level principles into its operating approach to include TEC leadership on what is required for Māori learners to thrive equally well in both te ao Māori (the Māori world) and te ao hurihuri (the changing world).

The TEC developed and piloted an evidence-based Māori Assessment Framework in 2014 to assess the effectiveness of TEO Investment Plans (2015–2017) for Māori learners. Based on the positive results from this trial, the TEC will refine the Framework’s design for future investment rounds. The TEC  will also develop good practice guides, self-review tools and professional development resources for providers; and improve monitoring approaches.

To support TEOs to embed the tertiary education goals of Ka Hikitia Accelerating Success 2013–2017 through teaching, the TEC commissioned Ako Aotearoa to develop professional development workshops and resources for TEOs in 2014. Hei Toko i te Tukunga applies kaupapa Māori principles to the development of good practice exemplars relevant to each sub-sector, and will continue to be supported by Ako Aotearoa.

In 2014 the TEC managed the process to select a Māori Centre of Research Excellence to be funded until 2020 and, in line with this TES priority, to contribute to growing and developing mātauranga Māori. Of three applications received, the application from Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga, hosted by the University of Auckland, was successful.

In 2014 the TEC also started developing an option for the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool to enhance its cultural responsiveness to Māori learners. This addition to the tool was announced in July 2015.

Initiatives to support Pasifika performance

In 2014 the TEC continued to focus resources and develop initiatives in line with the four critical areas in the TEC’s Pasifika Framework that have the greatest impact for Pasifika learners: improved transitions, continued achievement, effective collaboration and developing a high-quality evidence base.

In 2014 the TEC published its literature review, Doing Better for Pasifika in Tertiary Settings, which provides an evidence base to support TEOs to improve Pasifika participation and achievement. TEOs are expected to use the findings and success indicators from the literature review to develop an understanding of what is needed to raise educational performance for Pasifika learners, and include this in their Investment Plans for implementation.

The TEC also developed and trialled a Pasifika Assessment Framework in 2014 to measure the likely effectiveness of a TEO’s Investment Plan in meeting the needs of Pasifika learners. This framework will provide further resources to the sector, including an evidence-based TEO self-review tool for providers to measure how well they are meeting the needs of Pasifika learners, families and stakeholders, and to identify areas for improvement.

In 2014 the TEC continued work to increase the quality of the literacy and numeracy work programme and Pasifika learner outcomes in line with the Literacy and Numeracy Implementation Strategy refresh. Major areas of focus included lifting the profile of adult literacy and numeracy learning opportunities to Pasifika communities (particularly employees in relevant industries), and raising provider accountability for and responsiveness to Pasifika learning needs.

The TEC also provided leadership towards meeting the needs of Pasifika learners and families in the tertiary education system through workshops with providers and ongoing work with the Ministry of Education to implement and monitor the tertiary component of the Pasifika Education Plan 2013–2017.

Māori and Pasifika Trades Training

Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) provides fees-free tertiary places for Māori and Pasifika learners aged 18–34. The aim is for learners to acquire the skills and attributes needed to take up a New Zealand Apprenticeship at Level 4 or higher on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, and move into employment.

In 2014, its first year of operation, MPTT mainly delivered foundation-level pre-employment trades training in Northland, Auckland, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Waiariki, Taranaki, the East Coast, Wellington and Canterbury. Plans were underway at year end to extend provision of MPTT into the Whanganui-Manawatu region.

A central feature of MPTT is its consortia model. Under this model, TEOs, Māori and/or Pasifika organisations, and employers work together to better enhance course and qualification completion as well as successful transitions into trades-related employment.

In 2014 a total of 1,189 students participated in the initiative, of whom 803 (68%) identified as Māori, 454 (38%) as Pasifika. The TEC will continue to work with other government agencies to expand the scheme and ensure that sub-groups, particularly young women, are engaged.

Priority 4: Improving adult literacy and numeracyTop

Basic skills in literacy, language and numeracy are essential to participate fully in the modern world. Improved literacy and numeracy skills help not only those seeking employment, but also those already in the workforce to gain further qualifications and improve their career prospects. The Government has focused on improving the targeting, uptake and quality of study at lower levels. It has introduced a requirement that literacy, language and numeracy provision be embedded in all Level 1 to 3 courses.

Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool

The Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool is a mechanism in supporting providers to respond to this priority as it enables tutors to understand their learners’ needs, deliver tailored interventions and measure progress.

In 2014, 70 percent of all learners required to take an initial reading assessment did so, and 31 percent of learners required to take a progress reading assessment did so. Sixty-two percent of all learners required to take an initial numeracy assessment did so, and 29 percent of learners required to take a progress numeracy assessment did so. Compared with 2013, use of initial assessments was higher but progress assessment use remained flat. Use of the Assessment Tool continued to be higher for YG-funded programmes than for SAC-funded programmes. Across the sectors, PTEs continued to have the highest proportion of both initial and progress reading and numeracy assessments, with wānanga also showing high use of initial reading assessments.

The TEC has continued development work on a gain indicator, which should be completed by the end of 2015. The first results from the gain indicator show that in 2014 of those who took both an initial and a progress reading assessment, 19 percent made a statistically significant gain. Likewise, of those who took an initial and progress numeracy assessment, 20 percent made a statistically significant gain. The proportion of learners who made a gain was generally higher in YG-funded programmes. Further improvement is needed to reach the target articulated in the TEC's Literacy and Numeracy strategy of 25 percent achieving statistically significant gain by 2019.

The Assessment Tool continued to be improved and expanded in 2014, with a new Youth Option tailored for young learners between the ages of 15 and 25 years launched in July 2014. Development work also started on new Assessment Tool options that are culturally and educationally appropriate for Māori learners, and for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) and foundation-level literacy learners. Together with the Youth Option, these new assessment choices will make it easier for providers to help a diverse range of learners to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.

In 2014 the TEC also started refreshing its Literacy and Numeracy Implementation Strategy. This Strategy sets out how the TEC will work with the tertiary sector, employers and across government from 2015 to 2019 to lift the number of adults with sufficient literacy and numeracy skills to participate in the economy and society.

Priority 5: Strengthening research-based institutionsTop

Building tertiary education’s contribution to economic growth requires New Zealand to have strong, internationally respected and competitive universities and other research-based institutions. TEOs need to deliver high-quality qualifications, and attract and develop skilled staff to teach and to contribute to growing a strong research base. Research covers a broad spectrum, including academic, applied, commercially innovative and business-led research.

Performance-Based Research Fund

The TEC administers the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) with the primary goal of encouraging and rewarding excellent research in New Zealand’s tertiary education sector. The PBRF is growing, up from $262 million in 2013 to $275 million invested in 2014, with $278.5 million invested in 2015 and $300 million due to be invested in 2016. PBRF Quality Evaluations periodically assess the quality of research carried out by New Zealand-based degree-granting TEOs and their wholly owned subsidiaries, and fund them on the basis of their research performance. Eligible TEOs also generate PBRF funding from external research income (ERI) and students’ research degree completions (RDCs).

In 2014 there were 3,946 RDCs, which was a slight decrease from 4,023 in 2013. Approximately 96 percent of RDCs were at universities. In terms of fields of study, Society and Culture (558) and Natural and Physical Sciences (473) accounted for the highest proportions of RDCs at Master’s level. The same was also true at Doctoral level [Natural and Physical Sciences (365) and Society and Culture (296)]. After steady increases between 2012 and 2013, the number of RDCs for Māori and Pasifika dropped slightly in 2014 compared with the previous year and accounted for 266 and 110 RDCs respectively, (down from 279 and 137 respectively in 2013).

Following a 2012/2013 Ministry of Education-led review of the PBRF, in February 2014 Cabinet agreed a number of changes to the fund, to progressively take effect from 2015. Revised objectives include a shift beyond rewarding research performance to increasing research quality through a number of operational changes. For the ERI component, the weighting will increase and TEOs will be required to report their PBRF-eligible external research income broken down by source. Another proposed change is to reward tertiary education organisations that attract research funding from industry, iwi and not-for-profit organisations.

In July 2014 the TEC convened a Sector Reference Group to consult with the sector and other stakeholders on a range of implementation issues as part of the development of operational guidelines for the 2018 Quality Evaluation.

Priority 6: Growing international linkagesTop

International education provides an important opportunity to improve the economic, social and cultural value delivered by tertiary education. It not only provides additional sources of income for New Zealand TEOs, but also stimulates international linkages with overseas counterparts, helps enhance teaching and research, promotes knowledge sharing, builds human capital and realises wider benefits to international relationships and trade.

Developing international education relationships

In 2014 the TEC continued working closely with Education NZ, the Crown entity charged with furthering New Zealand’s international education interests, and other relevant agencies (including Immigration and Ministry of Education) to give effect to the Government’s Leadership Statement for International Education (2011). The goals of this initiative focus on developing educational relationships with major partner countries and increasing the number of students enrolled in New Zealand providers, both domestically and overseas.

Through its strategic conversations with the sector in 2014, the TEC encouraged TEOs to develop and grow their international education in line with their mission and role (and within risk management settings, especially in the case of TEIs). Examples of how individual TEOs responded to this priority in 2014 are given in the section ‘Tertiary Education Institutions’ 2014 Performance’.