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Farmers replace teachers in NZ Parliament, but white-collar professionals dominate

A new analysis of MP qualifications reveals New Zealand’s Parliament is highly educated, in disproportion to the public, and with arts and law, and private schooling, over-represented.

The research, by Mark Blackham and Emily Mingins of BlacklandPR, identified 171 separate tertiary qualifications among Parliament’s 123 MPs – close to the 174 under the 53rd Parliament.

Over a third of New Zealand MPs attended private or integrated secondary schools, and 85% of MPs have a tertiary qualification – half of them in humanities, arts or law.

68% hold at least one university degree – a similar level of university education to Australia (76%[1]) but considerably under the UK (85%[2]), and the US (95%[3]).

33% (19/123) of New Zealand MPs have postgraduate qualifications; 8 Phds (same as previous Parliament) and 11 other masters and diplomas (first time counted). This is similar to Australia (30%) but triple that of the US and UK (3.4%[4] and 3.2%[5] respectively).

The most popular tertiary institution was the University of Auckland, with 24% of MPs studying there.

The parties with the most qualifications per MP are the Greens (a ratio of 1.6 tertiary qualifications per MP) and Labour (1.59 tertiary qualifications per MP).

About 18 MPs have no post-secondary qualification (or none can be identified). The party with the lowest number of tertiary qualifications is Te Pāti Māori, with a ratio of 0.5 per MP. ACT also has fewer than one tertiary qualification per MP.

Blackland PR Director Mark Blackham says the high rate of qualifications reflects well on New Zealand’s education system but is disproportionate to the rate of qualifications held by the public and is skewed toward humanities.

“Only 25% of New Zealanders have a tertiary qualification, compared to 85% of MPs. Only 18% of New Zealanders go to private or integrated schools, but 35% of MPs did. This highlights a different route to adulthood among our MPs than most people experience.

“Research[6] indicates that the qualifications of lawmakers influence not just their decisions, but even the matters they choose to look at. With a different set of qualifications to most New Zealanders, this means the instinctive policy decisions of MPs could be different to the decisions of voters.”

Blackham said it is up to voters to decide whether higher level of qualifications leads to better decision-making.

“Tertiary qualifications don’t just provide subject knowledge – students also develop valuable transferable skills in teamwork, leadership and analysis. These are valuable assets for any MP.

“But the character, life experience and values of MPs probably matter even more.”

Blackham says the abundance of qualifications does not necessarily mean that MPs and ministers are more qualified in the matters they are addressing.

61 MPs are qualified in law or the arts, while only 13 MPs have qualifications in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

“A more diverse range of qualifications would make it easier for party leaders to assign portfolios to MPs with relevant experience,” Blackham says.

High School

The High School with the most MPs was Auckland Kings College, with seven ex-pupils in the current Parliament. Auckland Grammar school had three MPs, and no other High School had more than two MPs.

The average decile rating[7] of high schools attended by MPs was 7 or over. 10 MPs attended schools with decile rating 3 or under.

The number of MPs who went to private or integrated schools was 24, or 35% of MPs. In contrast, the percentage of New Zealand children who attend private or integrated schools is 18%.

How study was conducted

Qualification data was gathered from MPs’ public biographies, social media, media articles and via written responses from MPs’ offices.

 

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