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Universities high performing but underfunded

Universities New Zealand – Media release

Universities high performing but underfunded

5 May 2017

The latest rankings show that New Zealand has an efficient, high-performing university sector that is struggling to maintain its place in the world against a backdrop of underfunding.

Chris Whelan, Executive Director of Universities New Zealand, says the GDP-adjusted ranking of 7th in the world – up 2 places from 2016 - is a great reflection of a sector that works hard to ensure quality, relevance and connectivity across its teaching and research activities.

This is despite New Zealand, along with Argentina, Iran, the Czech Republic, experiencing the greatest falls in resourcing.

“In fact, the report has singled out the New Zealand government for criticism, saying, “the reduction in government funding as a share of GDP causes the ranking to fall five places to 23rd”.

“But the report also shows that our universities have performed strongly, are efficient and well-connected internationally.

New Zealand ranked in 7th place for connectivity. New Zealand’s researchers are high regarded internationally and are actively working with other researchers around the world, despite our distance to market. New Zealand also continues to prove an attractive destination for international students. New Zealand was placed above both Australia (12th) and the United States (13th).

Overall, New Zealand was ranked 15th, down one on last year, reflecting the ongoing struggle to maintain quality while managing under-funding.

Chris Whelan says, “It should be of concern to all New Zealanders that official statistics show that the New Zealand government’s expenditure on tertiary education institutions is below the OECD average.[1]

“Our universities, wānanga and polytechnics now sit amongst a range of countries we do not traditionally compare ourselves against, including Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey.”

“However, the Government has the opportunity to put this right in its Budget later this month.”

The respected Universitas 21 rankings of 50 countries is compiled by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. Countries are ranked in four areas: Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output.


- This release is on our website at

- The report is available at



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