The Tertiary Education Strategy

Te Rautaki Mātauranga Matua

Last updated 12 December 2019
Last updated 12 December 2019

It includes six priorities the Government wants to improve, to deliver a world-leading education system that equips New Zealanders for the 21st century.

What the TES focuses on

The Tertiary Education Strategy focuses on ensuring we have a tertiary education system that:

  • is more flexible, outward-facing and engaged
  • is focused on improving outcomes for learners and employers
  • has strong links to industry, community and the global economy.

Tertiary education is vitally important to New Zealand. The skills and knowledge people gain through tertiary education improve their chances of employment and increase their earnings. Tertiary education drives better economic, social, and cultural outcomes, creates new knowledge and helps the country’s productivity. 

The qualifications and earnings of disabled people

Statistics New Zealand’s 2013 Disability Survey provides the most accurate data on who is and is not disabled from asking a range of detailed questions on disability to a random sample of New Zealanders.

In our report, Disabled peoples education and employment outcomes (PDF, 809 Kb), which  links individual-level information from the Disability Survey, 2013 Census, tertiary enrolments and income, we found:

  • disabled people were less likely than non-disabled people to have completed a bachelor or higher qualification
  • disabled people who did enrol in higher tertiary qualifications were equally likely to complete their qualifications as non-disabled people
  • disabled people earned less than non-disabled people with similar qualification levels.

The Ministry of Education published a more detailed analysis of disabled people’s outcomes in tertiary education. It can be viewed on the Education Counts website.

The TEC will use both sets of data to inform our work programme to improve outcomes for disabled people in the tertiary education system.

The six priorities for tertiary education

The six priority areas of the TES guide the Tertiary Education Commission’s strategy and decisions, and shape our investments in tertiary education.

We use the TES to:

  • set performance expectations for the sector
  • shape our investments in a way that reflects the strategy’s priorities – we allocate most of our funds through Investment Plans , which need to reflect how tertiary education organisations (TEOs) will respond to the priority areas in the TES
  • shift funding over time to those TEOs that show they can make the best contribution to the outcomes sought by the Government
  • guide our business strategy – to help TEOs be more responsive to the changing needs of learners and employers and ensure New Zealanders have the skills and knowledge needed for lifelong success.




Supporting the Business Growth Agenda

Our work also takes into account the Government’s Business Growth Agenda and Better Public Services.

The Business Growth Agenda is central to the Government’s priority of building a more productive and competitive economy. Lifting productivity and competitiveness is critical to creating business opportunities, more jobs and higher wages, and ultimately the higher living standards to which New Zealanders aspire.

Our role is to support the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in supporting the system to develop skill graduates that the needs of employers.

Business Growth Agenda (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website)


The two Better Public Services targets

To sharpen the public sector’s focus on achieving results, the Government has set Better Public Services targets. For tertiary education, the priority is to boost skills and employment by increasing educational achievement. The two targets we contribute to are:

  • by 2017, 85 percent of 18 year olds will have achieved a level 2 or an equivalent qualification
  • by 2018, 60 percent of 25 to 34 year olds will have a qualification at level 4 and above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) .

We’re supporting these targets by:

  • working to improve skills across the country
  • ensuring more people see the benefits from participating in tertiary education
  • investing in TEOs that commit to boosting achievement for Māori and Pasifika, getting at-risk young people into a career and improving adult literacy and numeracy
  • helping learners to make informed decisions about tertiary education.

Better Public Services (State Services Commission website)

Working closely with other agencies

We support the priorities in the TES, the Business Growth Agenda and the Better Public Services targets by working closely with:

  • the Ministry of Education (MoE)
  • the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)
  • other education sector Crown entities

to create a world-leading education system that responds to the needs of employers and delivers the skills and knowledge that contribute to economic growth.

Working with other agencies