Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand

The Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand aims to identify the factors that make New Zealand graduates successful. It asked students about their lives in their final year at university. Those same students were contacted and re-surveyed at two years’ post-graduation and have now completed a further follow-up survey at the 8-year point - so that we can follow how their lives are actually progressing.

This “longitudinal” approach allows us to answer the question: Does a university education influence your life and, if so, how?

What is the study about?

The study aims to understand the value of a New Zealand tertiary education by exploring how graduates fare in the years following university, in terms of their lifestyles, employment, career development, and their health and well-being. It has provided, and will continue to provide, critical information to both universities and government policy makers as they try to optimise the value of the New Zealand university experience. In this way, it will be of great value to New Zealand, potentially impacting on social, educational, and wider societal outcomes. Find out about how the information gathered from this study is used by clicking here.

What does ‘longitudinal’ mean?

A longitudinal study follows the same study participants over a period of time to track any changes. For this particular study, the 8,719 students who participated in the 2011 Baseline survey have been asked to participate in an online survey at 2 years post-graduation (in 2014), and again at 8 years post-graduation (2019/2020).

How many students are involved?

Approximately 14,000 final-year university students – broadly representative of the 40,000 students completing their studies at New Zealand universities during 2011 – were invited to participate in the Baseline survey. A total of 8,719 students completed this survey. This same group of students was re-contacted in 2014 to complete the first follow-up survey 2 years post-graduation. They were re-contacted in 2019/2020 for the second follow-up survey at 8 years post-graduation. While this sounds like a large number of people, each and every person who participates in the study will make a difference. Their unique and important contribution will inform the complex picture of how a university education impacts on graduates’ futures.

How can I contact the research team?

You can email us here:

Why is the study being carried out?

The GLSNZ replaces the 35-year-old Graduate Destinations Survey that questioned all New Zealand university graduates about their employment outcomes six months after graduation. That survey was suspended after a 2008 review concluded it had run its course and a better understanding of the longer-term impact of university study would be more valuable.

Does this project have ethical approval?

The Graduate Longitudinal Study NZ was approved by the Multi-region Ethics Committee (ref: MEC-11-EXP-049) for the Baseline survey phase in 2011 and by the University of Otago Human Ethics Committee (ref: 13/194) for the first follow-up survey in 2014 and for the second follow-up survey in 2019 (ref: 19/107).

I answered the Baseline survey in 2011 - why do I have to do it again?

This is exactly why we'd like you do the survey again - we are interested in how things change for you over time in a wide range of areas. Although a lot of the questions will be the same in all of the surveys, the follow-up surveys are also slightly different from the Baseline survey; we'd like to know more about your employment outcomes after university.

Why is it important that I stay involved?

The more people who stay involved, the better the information we will have about what happens when graduates leave university. The information that you provide will help to inform a wide range of groups including educators, politicians, and NGOs. This study will highlight the contribution that New Zealand graduates make to society both nationally and internationally.

Who is driving the study?

The study was commissioned by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara, the body which represents the country’s eight universities. It is being conducted by the National Centre for Lifecourse Research, which is based at the University of Otago and has partners at all of the major research institutes in New Zealand.

Who are the researchers involved?

The study is being led by Professor Richie Poulton who is Co-Director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR), and Director of the world-renowned Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which follows the lives of about 1000 people from birth to now (the participants are currently about 45 years old). 

Based at the University of Otago, the NCLR team is being assisted in the GLSNZ project by experienced researchers from Otago’s Children's Issues Centre and the Department of Psychology. The full team is:

  • Professor Richie Poulton – Principal Investigator
  • Dr Karen Tustin – Project Manager
  • Dr Nicola Taylor – Co-investigator
  • Dr Megan Gollop – Co-investigator
  • Dr Jackie Hunter – Co-investigator
  • Dr Mele Taumoepeau – Co-investigator
  • Dr Moana Theodore – Co-investigator
  • Dr Jesse Kokaua – Co-investigator
  • Mr Blair Hughson – Website Manager

Who will be using information gathered during the survey?

The study findings will be of interest to:

  • Study participants, students and the general public, who want assurance that a New Zealand university education is of high quality and will enhance career and lifestyle opportunities;
  • The eight universities contributing to the study, who want to better understand how their students fared during their university experience and in the years following graduation, in terms of their lifestyles, employment, career development, health, and well-being. This information will help universities to tailor their courses, services, and facilities to effectively meet the needs of students in today’s global world;
  • The New Zealand Government, which is seeking robust information on the cost-effectiveness of its significant financial investment in university education and how this is contributing to the social and economic goals of individual graduates and New Zealand society as a whole;
  • The Ministry of Education, which is particularly interested in the destinations of, and outcomes for, international doctoral students;
  • The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is interested in gender differences in graduate outcomes over time; and
  • International educationalists, scholars, and policy makers, who will value new information about the impact of a New Zealand university experience on graduate outcomes.

Please note: The study findings will never identify individual participants, as the data will be aggregated across the sample.

Am I eligible to participate?

The 8,719 students who completed the Baseline survey in 2011 were made up of final-year undergraduates, postgraduates, mature, returning, and international students. You are eligible to participate in future surveys if you are one of the 8,719 students who completed the Baseline survey in 2011. If you have any questions about your eligibility, please email us.

When is the survey happening?

The Baseline survey was undertaken during the latter half of 2011. The first follow-up survey took place in 2014, approximately 2 years post-graduation (although we realise that a number of study members will have been undertaking further study at this stage). Another follow-up took place at 8 years post-graduation in 2019/2020.

How will the surveys be conducted?

All GLSNZ surveys are online surveys. Participants will be emailed a link to The Survey page, as well as log in details.

How long does the survey take?

The surveys each take about 30-40 minutes. It is streamlined so that you mostly click on the relevant boxes to indicate your response(s) to each question. There is an open-ended box at the end of the survey, where you can choose to include more information if you wish.

You don't need to do the whole survey in one go, you can log-in and log-off if you need to take a break. When you log back in the survey will continue where you left off.

When will the next phases of the study be undertaken?

We have just completed data collection for the most recent survey at 8 years post-graduation (2019/2020). If you were part of the Baseline survey, take a moment now to log in and update any of your details because we would like to keep you updated with the results of the study and contact you for future surveys in years to come.

How is the study being funded?

The Tertiary Education Commission provided $650,000 and the Ministries of Education and Women’s Affairs each contributed $50,000 to cover the first two years of the study’s development, including the 2011 administration of the Baseline survey and the first Baseline descriptive report. Funding for the first and second follow-up surveys has been provided by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara.

If I participate, can I have a copy of my results?

It will not be possible to provide copies of an individual’s results. This is because the data will be stored in a manner that precludes the easy identification of individual participants (so as to protect their anonymity). In addition, we don't wish to prejudice participants' future responses by providing feedback from earlier assessments; this is aimed at protecting the scientific integrity of the research.

There will, however, be research reports, from which summaries of the most interesting findings regarding graduate outcomes will be highlighted. These reports and summaries will be circulated to all participants and will be available on this website.

When will we see any results?

The research report with the 2011 baseline results was released in early 2012 and is available here. A research report with the 2014 first follow-up survey results was released in 2015 and is available here. A research report with the 2019/2020 second follow-up survey results will be released in 2021. If you are a study participant, you will be emailed a summary highlighting the key research findings.

How will the GLSNZ research team know where to find participants for future surveys?

We appreciate that people’s contact details are likely to change after they leave university and over time. Participants can keep their details up to date by clicking here.

What if I haven’t been invited but I’d like to be involved?

The students invited to participate in the GLSNZ were randomly selected from across New Zealand’s 2011 final-year student cohort. The 8,719 students who completed the Baseline survey in 2011 are eligible to participate in all subsequent follow-up surveys. If you are not one of these students then, unfortunately, you will not be able to take part in these surveys. We appreciate your interest in the project, however, and you can follow the study’s progress and the results on our website, where we’ll be reporting trends in the post-graduation experiences of your fellow students in the years to come.

What if I feel I need information/help about issues raised by the surveys?

Completing a survey about aspects of your life can be thought provoking or upsetting. For a range of services and organisations that can provide support, please click here.