NZ university fees seventh highest

The University of Otago. Photo: ODT files
The University of Otago. Photo: ODT files

New Zealand tertiary students are paying the seventh-highest fees in the developed world, a new report says.

The latest annual education update by the 35-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows New Zealand bachelor's degree students in public institutions paid average fees of $US4295 a year in 2015-16, or $NZ5927 at yesterday's exchange rate.

In New Zealand dollars, that was less than in the United States ($11,319), Australia ($6573) and four other countries.

But New Zealanders paid more than students in the other 20 countries for which data was available, including nine where students pay no fees at all.

The report comes as Labour campaigns for next week's election on a platform of scrapping fees for a lifetime entitlement of three years of tertiary education by 2024, starting with one year free next year.

The data shows taxpayers provided only 51% of tertiary institutions' income in 2014 in New Zealand - higher than in the United States (35%) and Australia (39%), but well below the average of 70% across all 35 OECD nations.

Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said this was partly because New Zealand had the second-highest proportion of international students - 21% of all tertiary students, compared with 16% in Australia and an OECD average of just 6%.

But New Zealand domestic students also paid a relatively high share of the costs of their tertiary education.

"We might think tertiary education is free if there are no fees, rather than the actual cost of $6000 paid by the student and $11,500 by the taxpayer,'' Mr Whelan said.

"It's not actually free.''

NZ report card

New Zealand's performance is mixed.

Spending: Public spending on education through taxes, at 4.7% of the national income, is the 10th-highest among the 35 nations.

Private spending, at 1.7% of national income, is the fifth-highest, and the combined total of 6.4% is higher than all other countries except Britain (6.6%) and Denmark (6.5%).

Early childhood: Almost twice as many 2-year-olds are in preschool education in New Zealand (65%) than across the OECD (39%), although the numbers range widely from none in Ireland to 95% in Iceland, partly because of definitional differences.

NZ preschool enrolments are also above average for 3-year-olds (89%) and 4-year-olds (94%), and are substantially above Australia's at all ages.

NZ taxpayers fund 81% of the cost of early childhood education, about the same as the OECD average (82%) and much more than in Australia (67%).

Teacher ratios: Ratios of teachers to pupils in New Zealand are almost identical to the Australian and OECD averages in both primary schools (1:16) and secondary schools (1:14).

Teacher pay: Primary teachers after 15 years' service earned almost exactly the same in 2015 ($59,259 at today's exchange rate) as the OECD average ($59,152), but much less than in Australia ($81,918). Australian teachers are the fifth-highest paid in the OECD.

Teacher demographics: New Zealand teachers are the third-oldest in the OECD with 36% aged 50 or over compared with the OECD average of 30%.

The proportions of female teachers are about the same as the OECD average across all sectors: 98% female in preschool education, 84% in primary schools, 66% in lower secondary school, 60% in upper secondary and 49% in tertiary education.

Tertiary subjects: The most popular subjects for tertiary graduates are business, administration and law, a group that accounts for 25% of New Zealand graduates and 24% across the OECD.

New Zealand is first-equal with Finland in our share of graduates in information and communication technologies (7%) but third-lowest in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%).

Educated workforce: Last year, 43% of New Zealanders aged 25 to 34 had tertiary qualifications, the same as the OECD average but below Australia (49%).

NEET: One in eight (12.6%) of New Zealanders aged 18 to 24 last year were not in employment, education or training (NEET) - worse than Australia (10.9%) but better than the OECD average (15.3%).

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