Publishing provider-level information on Employment Outcomes of Tertiary Education

From 2017, Tertiary Education Providers will have to publish information on the employment status and earnings of their graduates.

Information on employment outcomes of tertiary Education

Government, tertiary providers, and employers all agree that the purpose of a tertiary education is to improve outcomes for people – to help them build careers and have satisfying lives, while contributing to New Zealand’s social and economic development. So we want to get better information about those things.

From 2017, tertiary providers will be required to give the Ministry of Education access to information about where their graduates go after they’ve finished training, and how much (on average) they are earning.

The information will focus on the outcomes of young people, which government agencies will then publish to help students decide what and where to study. This will also give providers a better understanding of their own performance, and will help the public understand how its spending on tertiary education is contributing to New Zealand’s development.

The information will come from a Statistics New Zealand database that links data from many government agencies.

Providing access to the information will be compulsory from 2017. The Ministry is already working with many providers to help them become familiar with the process and the details that are required.

What will the information be used for?

The Ministry wants to help students make the most of their time in tertiary education.

Students and their families consider many things when deciding what to study, and where. Most students expect their tertiary study will get them a job and improve their career prospects. However, these expectations are often based on unreliable data and anecdotes.

Providing employment rates and earnings will help prospective students determine what to study, and information about providers will help them decide where to study.

Providers have told us that they want better data about outcomes but it’s difficult and expensive to collect this data themselves. This project is an opportunity for government and providers to partner to give us both access to outcomes data that is comprehensive and low-cost.

The employment outcomes data will help providers see how they compare with other providers, and to better understand and improve their programmes and performance. Providers will also be able to use the information to identify where there are gaps in the market. They can then focus on establishing links in those areas, and improve their responsiveness to labour market demand.

Why now?

Many people working in the tertiary system – both providers and government – have been focused on getting a better view of the outcomes of the system. The Government has worked in recent years to improve the way tertiary education supports the labour market and students’ study decisions. This is important so students can make the most of their time in tertiary education, and because of the significant investment students and taxpayers make as part of that.

Nationwide information about tertiary students’ employment rates and earnings has been developed since 2009, but published in a variety of reports instead of being collated. It has been used on the Careers New Zealand website as part of the Compare Study Options (external link) tool and for the Occupation Outlook (external link) information (and application).

What information will be published?

The indicators of graduates’ employment outcomes are:

  • graduate destinations: are graduates employed, studying, overseas or on a benefit?
  • graduate earnings: median, lower quartile and upper quartile earnings of graduates in employment or self-employment in New Zealand.

These results will be benchmarked against national data.

The information also focuses on graduates aged 21 – 29, in order to focus on the effects a qualification has on their employment and earnings, not the effect of prior work experience.
You can find technical details here.

What about the things outside providers’ control that affect employment outcomes?

What a graduate ends up doing after their studies depends on many things, not just what and where they studied. So, for instance, employment rates reflect much more than how well a qualification is structured and how well a provider performs. To give context for the employment outcomes information, it will be published alongside information on providers’ educational performance and labour market demand (at national level).

The details of this will be developed with providers during 2016.

What do providers and Industry Training Organisations have to do?


Provider-level employment outcomes will be published from 2017. The collation and central publication of the data will not cost providers anything.

Statistics New Zealand needs a provider’s written consent before releasing information about graduates. From 2017, providers will be required to consent to Statistics New Zealand releasing information about their students as a condition of receiving funding from the Tertiary Education Commission.

Providers will be able to access their data early in 2016. This will be an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the data and to work with education agencies regarding how the information should be published.

Providers will be expected to provide their students with the information. We will also make the information available centrally.

Industry Training Organisations

The Ministry of Education’s work on employment outcomes information has yet to cover industry training. All industry trainees are in employment during their training, while students studying with providers are generally not working full-time as they study.

The Ministry of Education and the Industry Training Federation will work together during 2016 to develop appropriate indicators of industry trainees’ employment outcomes. As with other providers, Statistics New Zealand requires consent from the Industry Training Organisations to release data about trainees. From 2016, Industry Training Organisations will be required as a condition of receiving funding, to consent to Statistics New Zealand releasing information about their trainees.

Information about industry trainees’ employment will be published by 2018.

What information is already available?

The Ministry of Education has published several reports that analyse graduates’ employment outcomes information.

Publications using employment outcomes data

Where does the information come from?

The data is from Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). It includes the tertiary education data that providers submit through the single data return, and that Industry Training Organisations submit to the Industry Training Register. Providers do not need to submit any additional data for employment outcomes information to be produced.

The IDI links multiple administrative datasets, including tax, education, border-crossing and benefits data. Statistics New Zealand follows strict privacy, and confidentiality protocols that ensure individuals are unable to be identified in the data released.

Read more about the IDI (external link) .

Technical information and data definitions

How will the data be organised?

We will publish this information by level of study and by field of study.

This means people will be encouraged to compare outcomes for a group of bachelors graduates with the outcomes for other bachelors graduates, and diploma graduates with diploma graduates. And, within each level of study, people can compare outcomes for a given field of study – for instance, we will be able to compare a group of bachelors graduates in engineering with other similar graduates.

Graduate destinations

The 5 graduate destinations are:

  • Overseas – Graduates who are overseas for 9 months or more in a year.
  • Further study – graduates who are not classified in the Overseas category and undertake any tertiary study in a calendar year.
  • Receiving a benefit – graduates who are not classified in either the Overseas or Further study categories and who are on a benefit for at least four months in a tax year (April to March) and who are not in employment for a longer time than this.
  • Employment – graduates who are not classified in the Overseas, Further study or Receiving a benefit categories, and who receive wages and salary, paid parental leave and/or accident compensation for at least 4 months or more in a tax year and/or receive any self-employment income.
  • Other/unknown – graduates who are involved in more than one activity during the year and who do not meet the criteria for any of the above four destinations, or for whom no matching data can be found in the IDI.

Most graduates have more than one destination – for instance, a graduate may be in work while also doing further study. In this project, we are ‘prioritising’ destinations, so that each person is assigned to a single destination that reflects their dominant activity.
The prioritisation rules can be found here (external link)  [PDF; 1.28MB].

Who count as ‘young graduates’?

The definition of "young" depends on the qualification: the more fulltime study is needed to complete the qualification, the older a "young graduate' can be.

Young graduates are defined as:

  • 21 years or under at certificate level
  • 23 years or under at diploma level
  • 24 years or under for 3 year bachelors degrees, with each year of additional study requirement adding a year to the age cut off for longer qualifications
  • 26 years or under for a one year postgraduate study or graduate certificate or diploma
  • 27 years or under for masters
  • 29 years or under for doctorate students.

The age of a graduate is based on their age as at 1 July of their last year of enrolment in a qualification.

Years of available data

The most recent published results at national level show employment outcomes for up to 7 years after graduation. They are available here (external link) .

For the national data, two successive years of graduate data are combined. This increases the number of graduates so Statistics New Zealand’s confidentiality requirements can be met. It also improves the statistical quality and robustness of the results.

For provider-level data, four cohorts of graduates will be combined. This is because more graduates are needed to meet Statistics New Zealand’s confidentiality requirements. The table below shows the cohorts that will be aggregated for the data which will be available to providers early in 2016.

Years after study Cohorts’ year of graduationCalendar yearTax year
1 2009-2012 2010-2013 2011-2014
2 2008-2011 2010-2013 2011-2014
3 2007-2010 2010-2013 2011-2014
4 2006-2009  2010-2013 2011-2014
5 2005-2008 2010-2013 2011-2014
6 2004-2007 2010-2013 2011-2014
7 2003-2006 2010-2013 2011-2014

Graduates’ destinations and earnings are always from the same calendar and tax years, and earnings figures are adjusted to take account of inflation. This is so outcomes each year after graduation are compared in the same economic climate and in the same value currency.

How is the field of study determined?

The New Zealand Standard Classification of Education (NZSCED) will be used to classify the field(s) of graduates’ qualifications. NZSCED has three levels of classification – broad field of study, narrow field and detailed field.

The level of study, field of study, year of study, and study load (amount) of each course a graduate was enrolled in their last three years of study will be used to determine what best represents their ‘main’ field(s) of study – or specialisation(s).

This method may assign a graduate’s qualification to a different field from what is suggested by the qualification’s name. It means, for instance, that outcomes can be compared for people who specialised in information technology, whether they took that as part of a degree in science or a degree in business.

Qualifications can be assigned to more than one field of study. This means the number of students in each narrow field of study may total more than the broad field of study total, and similarly for the sum of students across broad fields of study compared to the total number.

Go to more information about NZSCED (external link)

Scope of published data

Data for the vast majority of graduates can be published. However, sometimes the number of graduates in a field of study at a particular qualification level is very small. When this happens, the results are suppressed to protect the privacy of individual students. To help increase the number of students in each year’s results, four successive groups of students are aggregated.

This means the methodology is less suited to small or medium-sized providers with a wider range of fields of study, or with a higher proportion of older graduates. We will work with these providers to aggregate their data so more of it can be published.

At a certain point, aggregating cohorts, and levels and fields of study, will make the data unhelpful for students’ decisions. So there will be some smaller providers for which no data can be published.

What’s next?

The data collected in 2016 will be used as a ‘test year’, an opportunity for all involved to get familiar with the data before it is published in 2017.

This will provide government agencies a chance to refine the methodology, work out how the central publication will work, do more work on contextual information, and fine tune indicators.

For providers, it’s an opportunity to get familiar with the data, start to use it in managing their programmes, and work out how they will use it in their information for students. Many providers have already given their consent to allow access to their information, following the Minister’s announcement of 14 September 2015. (external link)

Download the consent letter
[DOCX, 23 KB]


The Ministry plans to use its regular meetings with sector peak bodies to clarify matters and to answer questions.

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