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Definitions and information about the data


Highest qualification: derived for people aged 15 years and over, by combining highest secondary qualification and post-school qualification to obtain a single highest qualification by category of attainment.

Post-school qualification: the highest qualification a person aged 15 years and over has gained over and above any school qualification. Included are qualifications awarded by educational and training institutions, as well as those gained from on-the-job training. We produce data on post-school qualification as category of attainment and by field of study.

Qualification is a formally recognised award for educational or training attainment. ‘Formal recognition’ means that the qualification is approved by one of the following (or their predecessors):

  • New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)
  • Universities New Zealand Te Pokai Tara
  • Association of Polytechnics of New Zealand
  • Association of Colleges of Education in New Zealand
  • approval bodies that have been recognised by NZQA
  • the recognised overseas authority of a secondary school, profession, academic discipline, or trade.

In general, a qualification is defined as requiring full-time equivalent study of three months or greater. Study time is an estimate of the typical time it takes a learner to achieve the learning outcomes of the qualification. This includes direct contact time with teachers and trainers, as well as time spent studying, and on assignments and assessments.

Qualification subject (field of study): is the main topic or field of study of a qualification. This means that subjects of all courses studied within a qualification are not captured. 'Subject' applies to a post-school qualification, not to a secondary school qualification.

Study participation: measures those attending, studying, or enrolled at school or anywhere else. It is grouped into full-time study (20 hours or more a week), part-time study (less than 20 hours a week), and those not studying. 

Information about the data

Comparability with past censuses

Because the 2011 Census was cancelled after the Canterbury earthquake on 22 February 2011, the gap between the 2013 Census and the last one is seven years. The change in the data between 2006 and 2013 may be greater than in the usual five-year gap between censuses. Be careful when comparing trends.

In some sections of this report, we compare 2013 Census data with 2006 and 2001 Census data. In other sections, we compare it with 2006 or 2001 data only. The choice of which data to use for comparisons depended on the availability of data and the rate of change over time. 

For highest qualification, 2013 Census data has limited comparability with 2001 Census data due to the progressive introduction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) from 2002. NCEA is now the main qualification for secondary school students. Because of this limited data comparability, the highest qualification section of this report only contains 2006 and 2013 Census data.

We can still provide the breakdown of people with and without a qualification from the 2001 Census, but not a breakdown of the highest qualification levels.

Calculation of percentages

Unless otherwise stated, all percentages and ratios in this report exclude responses that cannot be classified (eg 'not stated').


The data in this report has been randomly rounded to protect confidentiality. Individual figures may not add up to totals, and values for the same data may vary in different tables.

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