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New models of tertiary education

The Productivity Commission completed its inquiry into new models of tertiary education. The final report, summary material, government response, inquiry submissions and research reports are available below.

4 tertiary students underneath some symbols of academia


  • Our brief
    October 2015
  • Consultation and engagement starts
  • Issues paper
    24 February 2016
  • Submissions closed 4 May 2016
  • Draft report
    29 September 2016
  • Submissions closed 21 November 2016
  • Final report
    21 March 2017
  • Evaluation
    May 2017
  • Government response
    26 July 2017

The inquiry

The Government asked the Commission to investigate how well New Zealand's tertiary education system is set up to respond to, and take advantage of, trends in technology, internationalisation, population, tuition costs and demand for skills. The Commission was also asked to identify potential barriers to innovation. Read our brief here.

This inquiry followed on from the 2014 Innovations in Tertiary Education Delivery Summit, which considered emerging models of tertiary education provision and discussed challenges to shifting away from traditional models. The inquiry considered how New Zealand’s institutional and policy settings help or hinder the adoption of new models of tertiary education, as well as looking broadly across what new models there are or what might emerge.

What did the inquiry find?

A good tertiary education system is one that meets the needs of all learners – including those from diverse backgrounds and with diverse goals.

The Commission found that the current system serves many students well, but it could be better, and it could do more to extend the benefits of tertiary education to groups who currently can’t access it.

The system is tightly controlled and inflexible. Providers have too few incentives to find better ways of reaching and teaching learners. Our report and its package of recommendations seek to give providers the scope to innovate in the delivery of tertiary education, and incentives to do so.

Key recommendations

Our report provided recommendations for a tertiary education system that is diverse, adaptable and responsive – in other words, a system that supports new models, and is better able to respond to the new models of education that are being developed elsewhere. We recommend:

  • Better quality control and self-accreditation for strong performers;
  • Making it easier for students to transfer between courses;
  • Better careers education for young people;
  • Enabling tertiary institutions to own and control their assets;
  • Making it easier for new providers to enter the system; and
  • Facilitating more and faster innovation by tertiary education providers.

Find out more, by reading the following key documents:

Government response

Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Paul Goldsmith announced the Government's response to the report in July 2017.

The Commission was an independent research and advisory body that did not have a mandate to implement any policies or programmes. However, by carrying out high quality, innovative research and evidence-based inquiries, we aimed to influence and inform policy change and decision making.