In little over a decade, the proportion of New Zealanders holding a university degree has increased significantly, from 14.7% of the population in December 2001 to 24.1% in March 2013. Whereas more men (53.5%) than women (46.5%) were tertiary educated in 2001, the tables are turning: as of December last year, 50.6% of Kiwis with degrees were women and 49.4% were men. But what’s behind this surge in education levels? The latest Roy Morgan Research data indicates that an increasingly multicultural populace has a lot to do with it.
Take the increase in New Zealanders of Asian descent in recent years. As of December 2012, they numbered 140,000 – more than double their 2001 numbers (65,000). Tertiary education among this segment of the population is much higher than the average New Zealander; and has risen from 35.6% in 2001 to 45.9% now.
Kiwis of Indian descent also show marked population growth (from 20,000 to 104,000), many of them degree holders. Whereas 40.2% were university educated in 2001, this figure now sits at a healthy 51.2% — well above the national average, not to mention the average for New Zealanders of European descent (23.7%, up from 14.5% in 2001).
New Zealand’s Polynesian and Maori populations are on the rise too: the former more than trebling (from 40,000 to 126,000) and the latter more than doubling (from 173,000 to 395,000) since 2001. Degree holders in both segments have also multiplied: 12% of Maoris and 14.3% of Polynesians now have degrees, up from 8.5% and 11.4% respectively.
The socio-economic dimension
Why do Maoris and Pacific Islanders record a much lower rate of tertiary education than other ethnic segments? This is almost certainly due to the fact that people in the higher socio-economic quintiles are more likely to hold degrees, and Maoris and Pacific people are traditionally more likely to come from lower quintiles. However, if the current trend continues, this situation may well change …
Source:Roy Morgan Single Source (New Zealand), July 2011 – June 2012 (n = 19,690).
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