Part 1: Introduction

Tertiary education institutions: 2019 audit results and what we saw in 2020.

Tertiary education is important to many New Zealanders’ personal development and future economic well-being. Young people, their whānau, adults looking to retrain or learn a new skill, and employers rely on the quality and stability of tertiary education providers. Tertiary education is also important to the country’s future economic performance.

The Government invests more than $3 billion annually in about 760 public and private tertiary education organisations. These include public tertiary education institutions (TEIs), private training establishments, industry training organisations, adult and community education providers, government training establishments, and secondary schools.3

Tertiary education includes adult community education, vocational education and training, higher education, and research.

This report summarises our audits of the 27 public TEIs. They consist of eight universities, three wānanga, and 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs). We did not look at the quality of teaching or research at these TEIs because it is outside of our mandate.

We audited the financial statements and statements of service performance for the year ended 31 December 2019, with a statutory reporting deadline of 30 April 2020.

In early 2019, the Government began its programme to reform vocational education. During the Government’s consultation on the reforms, we expressed some concerns about the time frame for the reforms and the lack of detailed financial projections.

During 2019, before the legislation that gave effect to the reforms was enacted, ITPs were affected by considerable uncertainties about their future.

TEIs prepared their 2019 financial statements, and we carried out most of the audits, when concerns about Covid-19 were increasing. Covid-19 was a sudden and significant shock to the operations of all TEIs. There have been significant revenue implications for TEIs whose international students were not in the country when the border was closed.

In Part 2, we look at progress with the implementation of the reforms of vocational education.

In Part 3, we look at the immediate responses to Covid-19, including additional funding for vocational education. We also discuss the tertiary education sector’s plans for recovery.

In Part 4, we discuss the results of the 2019 audits of TEIs.

In Parts 5-7, we discuss the financial and enrolment results for universities, wānanga, and ITPs.4

Wherever possible, data in this report comes from audited financial statements and statements of service performance in the TEIs’ annual reports. However, some TEIs do not report separately on domestic and international full-time students.5

Therefore, we have calculated those numbers from other published but unaudited information in the TEIs’ annual reports. For three former ITPs that have not yet reported, we looked at data from their draft and unaudited financial statements.

3: Tertiary Education Commission (2019), Annual Report, at

4: Our data on the number of enrolled students might vary slightly from those published by the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission. Those organisations collect data that is more detailed than the data we get from TEI annual reports. However, the annual reports are the only publicly available source of data at the time we collect it.

5: We count a student as domestic if they qualified for domestic fees or their institution gets government funding for them. This includes a small number of students from other countries that qualify for domestic tuition fees and a small number of international students studying level 9 post-graduate or doctoral degrees. We count students as international students only if they are paying full international fees.