A critical examination of New Zealand tertiary education policy development since 2000 and its relationship to graduate outcomes
Yee, Andrew Hartley
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Since 1999, the New Zealand government has actively encouraged tertiary enrolments to its citizens in order to create a knowledge-driven society that is economically prosperous. The political rhetoric states that by participating in tertiary education, better employment opportunities will be accessible to the participants. As a result, the expectations for tertiary education shifted over time as gaining qualifications are increasingly associated with economic success. Using an interpretative approach, this study of higher education policy examined the development of contemporary policy in tertiary education, and the expectations of graduate outcomes that were evident in these policies. This study drew upon key concepts from the existing literature, and aimed to provide a comparison between actual graduate outcomes from different disciplines using data extracted from official statistics. This study found that around half of New Zealand bachelor-level graduates failed to obtain employment within one year of graduation, therefore questioning the implied linearity from education to employment. This study also found that graduates had varying outcomes based on their fields of study, ranging from education graduates having the highest employment rate to science graduates having the lowest. This study also showed that gaining employment shortly after graduation did not guarantee a sustainable increase in earnings for these graduates. In addition, the failure to achieve employment was noted to have detrimental effects on the individual and the economy. Therefore this study ultimately questions the endless pursuit for further tertiary enrolments by the New Zealand government.