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NZ University Degrees Represent Value For Money

Media Release April 19, 2005

NZ University Degrees Represent Value For Money

Graduates from New Zealand universities hold qualifications that will increase their employment, career and earning prospects, according to the NZ Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.

Commenting on a study by an American research institute which allegedly found that New Zealand degrees were comparatively expensive on an international basis, the body which represents this country’s eight universities said its research confirmed a New Zealand university graduate commanded a premium in the employment market.

NZVCC chair Professor Stuart McCutcheon says university graduates here have higher labour force participation than the rest of the working age population – 85 per cent as opposed to 67 per cent.

Further, unemployment for university graduates is considerably lower than non-graduates. Over the past decade the unemployment rate for people aged between 25 and 35 with degrees and postgraduate qualifications was 3.9 per cent. Over the same period the rate for those with other tertiary qualifications was 5.8 per cent, those with just school qualifications 6.0 per cent and those with no qualifications, 15.3 per cent.

Over the same 10-year period, average unemployment was 7.4 per cent, almost double that for university graduates. Currently, only 8.1 per cent of university graduates remain unemployed six months after graduation and that proportion has been steadily declining in recent years.

Professor McCutcheon says that salaries reported through the annual NZVCC graduate destinations survey show that first-degree university graduates enter full-time employment at higher levels of remuneration than other people commencing their careers.

The paper which purports to show that New Zealand degrees are among the world’s most expensive was prepared by the Washington-based Educational Policy Institute. Entitled “Global Higher Education Rankings – Affordability and Accessiblity in Comparative Perspective”, it draws heavily on dated OECD data and a University of Buffalo report also largely discredited as being out of date. The paper’s authors acknowledge that it is based on available data and “it is hoped and expected that better data” will allow for “a more accurate exploration of indicators”.

Professor McCutcheon points out that a number of the indicators used in the paper’s affordability index are external to universities; principally living costs, grants and loans.

“What is important is the local context. In New Zealand, a university degree represents value for money in terms of a graduate’s lifetime earning and career prospects. For New Zealanders, an investment in a university degree is one that pays off.”


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