Performance-Based Research Fund

Who applies? ITPs, PTEs, Universities, Wānanga Fund focus: Capability funding, Research
Status: Ongoing Agreed through? Investment Plan (on Plan)

The purpose of the Performance-based Research Fund (PBRF) is to ensure that excellent research in the tertiary education sector is encouraged and rewarded. This means assessing the research performance of tertiary education organisations (TEOs) and then funding them on the basis of their performance.

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The Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) is a performance-based funding system to encourage and reward excellent research in New Zealand’s degree-granting organisations. It does not fund research directly but supports research, including post-graduate level teaching support. 


The primary objectives of the PBRF are to:
  • increase the quality of basic and applied research at New Zealand's degree-granting tertiary education organisations (TEOs) 
  • support world-leading teaching and learning at degree and postgraduate levels
  • assist New Zealand's TEOs to maintain and lift their competitive rankings relative to their international peers, and
  • provide robust public information to stakeholders about research performance within and across TEOs.

In doing so, the PBRF will also:

  • support the development of postgraduate student researchers and new and emerging researchers
  • support research activities that provide economic, social, cultural, and environmental benefits to New Zealand, including the advancement of mātauranga māori, and
  • support technology and knowledge transfer to New Zealand businesses, iwi and communities. 

To meet these objectives, the main focus of the PBRF is on rewarding and encouraging excellence. Excellent is not just about the production of high-quality research articles, books, exhibitions and other forms of research output. It includes all of the following:

  • the production and creation of leading-edge knowledge
  • the application of that knowledge
  • the dissemination of that knowledge to students and the wider community, and
  • supporting current and potential researchers (e.g. postgraduate students) in the creation, application and dissemination of knowledge.

Guiding principles of the PBRF

The PBRF is governed by the following principles:

  • Comprehensiveness: the PBRF should appropriately measure the quality of the full range of original investigative activity that occurs within the sector, regardless of its type, form, or place of output.
  • Respect for academic traditions: the PBRF should operate in a manner that is consistent with academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
  • Consistency: evaluations of quality made through the PBRF should be consistent across the different subject areas and in the calibration of quality ratings against international standards of excellence.
  • Continuity: changes to the PBRF process should only be made where they can bring demonstrable improvements that outweigh the cost of implementing them.
  • Differentiation: the PBRF should allow stakeholders and the Government to differentiate between providers and their units on the basis of their relative quality.
  • Credibility: the methodology, format and processes employed in the PBRF must be credible to those being assessed.
  • Efficiency: administrative and compliance costs should be kept to the minimum, consistent with a robust and credible process.
  • Transparency: decisions and decision-making processes must be explained openly, except where there is a need to preserve confidentiality and privacy.
  • Complementarity: the PBRF should be integrated with new and existing policies, such as Investment Plans, and quality assurance systems for degrees and degree providers.
  • Cultural inclusiveness: the PBRF should reflect the bicultural nature of New Zealand and the special role and status of the Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti o Waitangi), and should appropriately reflect and include the full diversity of New Zealand’s population.

How the fund works

The PBRF is accessed by universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), wānanga and private training establishments (PTEs).

The size of the PBRF funding pool is determined by the Government through its annual Budget. 

PBRF funding is paid through the Investment Plan. Delivery of the Plan is monitored by the Tertiary Education Commission (the TEC).

The PBRF comprises three funding components – Quality Evaluation, Research Degree Completion and External Research Income.


Quality Evaluation

The purpose of Quality Evaluation is to reward and encourage the quality of researchers – 55 percent of the fund from 2016.

The Quality Evaluation is an assessment of the research performance of staff at eligible TEOs. TEOs present their staff member’s research in an Evidence Portfolio which are assessed for quality by expert peer review panels.

The Quality Evaluation is held periodically. There have been three previous Quality Evaluations in 2003, 2006 and 2012. For more information about these earlier rounds see Previous Quality Evaluation rounds.

The TEC has convened a Sector Reference Group (SRG) to prepare the guidelines for the 2018 Quality Evaluation. The SRG's consultation papers can be found on the SRG Consultation Papers page.

Research Degree Completion

The purpose of the Research Degree Completions is to reflect research degree completions – 25 percent of the fund. This element is a yearly measurement of the number of PBRF-eligible postgraduate research-based degrees completed at participating TEOs.


External Research Income

The purpose of the External Research Income is to reflect external research income – 20 percent of the fund from 2016. This element is a yearly measurement of the amount and type of income received by participating TEOs from external sources for research purposes.



The Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) funding mechanism outlines the general form and essential components of the fund and is issued by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.  It provides the mandate for the TEC to allocate the funding and details how we administer the fund.

Allocating this fund helps support the achievement of government policy and the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES).

A TEO that receives PBRF funding is required to:

  • comply with the requirements of the Education Act 1989
  • comply with the funding conditions specified in the TEO's funding confirmation letter.


Researchers' requests for assessment information

Researchers may request information on the assessment of their evidence portfolio. To request a report, the researcher will need to complete the form Request for Evidence Portfolio Information (Word, 304 Kb). To ensure confidentiality, if we have any concerns related to the identity of the researcher, the information will not be released. 

  • Last changed: 30 March 2016
  • Last verified: 30 March 2016