Performance-Based Research Fund

Performance-Based Research Fund

Last updated 24 August 2021
Last updated 24 August 2021

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.

Who applies:  ITPs, PTEs, universities, wānanga

Agreed through:  Investment Plan (on fund) 

Review of the Performance-based Research Fund 2019

Cabinet announced decisions on changes to the PBRF in July 2021. This follows a periodic review of the PBRF that commenced in July 2019, following the appointment of an independent PBRF Review panel.

The aim of the 2019 Review was to examine the ways government can continue to support research excellence by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the PBRF settings and to ensure the benefits of this research are shared across New Zealand.

More information on the review, including the panel’s final report, and Cabinet’s decisions on changes to the PBRF can be found on the Ministry of Education's website.

Performance-Based Research Fund Recovery

How we will calculate any recoveries for 2020 PBRF funding

TEO’s final Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) funding may vary from its indicative funding for a number of reasons.  These include errors in PBRF data being fixed as a result of checks, or a TEO leaving the PBRF during the course of a year by ceasing operation or changing course offerings.  Once any data is corrected, this may result in an increase or decrease in the share of a TEO (with a corresponding adjustment for other TEOs). 

In general, nearly all changes are due to errors being fixed in research degree completion data by TEOs.  External Research Income (ERI) data rarely changes while the Quality Evaluation (QE) data remains the same until the next Quality Evaluation.

We will only wash-up the Research Degree Component for 2020

Funding for the Research Degree Completion (RDC) component of the PBRF in 2020 is $78,750,000. 

We will use the final RDC data submitted through the 2021 April Single Data Return; and we will include any subsequent RDC data amendments made by Providers up to 30 June 2021; to get the final RDC ratio and then round it to 8 decimal places.

The value of the 2020 final RDC funding is $78,750,000 multiplied by the final RDC ratio and rounded to 2 decimal places.

We will wash-up the difference between the value of the indicative RDC Allocation and the value of the final RDC funding for 2020.

We will adjust the allocation of the provider receiving the largest portion of RDC if the 2020 final RDC rounded calculations create an over allocation against the 2020 RDC funding component of the PBRF.  A small difference will be accepted where funding is under allocated due to rounded calculations.


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 research – 55 percent of the fund.

The Quality Evaluation is an assessment of the research performance of staff at eligible TEOs. TEOs present their staff members' research in Evidence Portfolios that are assessed for quality by expert peer review panels.

The Quality Evaluation is held periodically. The most recent Quality Evaluation was held in 2018. To learn more, see 2018 Quality Evaluation

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

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 is issued by the Minister responsible for tertiary education. The funding mechanism outlines the general form and essential components of the fund. It provides the mandate for us to allocate the funding and what the funding can be used for, and details how we administer the fund.

Funding is agreed through a tertiary education organisation's (TEO’s) Investment Plan (Plan).

A TEO that receives PBRF funding is required to:

Funding allocation

2021 Performance-Based Research Fund indicative allocation

How we calculated your 2021 indicative allocation for the Performance-Based Research Fund

The information below provides a summary of how your indicative allocation was calculated. For more details regarding your specific allocation, please contact or your Relationship Manager.

Your prior performance information was used to calculate your 2021 indicative allocation.

Starting point

The PBRF is a mixed performance-assessment regime that employs both peer review processes and performance measures.

We calculate PBRF allocations based on the performance of eligible TEOs in:

  • A periodic Quality Evaluation.
  • The number of eligible Research Degree Completions.
  • The value of External Research Income.

The Quality Evaluation: this is a periodic assessment of the research performance of eligible TEO staff, undertaken by expert peer review panels. This component makes up 55% of the fund.

The funding allocation is based on the award of funded Quality Categories and subject area weighting of Evidence Portfolios submitted by TEOs. It is calculated relative to:

a. The funded Quality Category assigned to Evidence Portfolios (EPs) – e.g. A,B,C or C (NE);
b. The full-time equivalency status of the participating TEO’s PBRF-eligible staff member as recorded in the PBRF Staff Data File; and
c. The weighting for the subject area to which EPs have been assigned.

The postgraduate Research Degree Completions (RDC): this is a measurement of the annual number of PBRF-eligible postgraduate research-based degrees completed at participating TEOs. This component makes up 25% of the Fund.

The funding allocation is based on a three-year rolling average of a TEO’s research-based postgraduate degree completions, weighted by research volume, relative costs of the subject areas, and ethnicity and completions in Te Reo.

The External Research Income (ERI): this is the annual amount of income participating TEOs receive for research from external sources. This component makes up 20% of the Fund.

The funding allocation is based on a three year rolling average of a TEO’s proportion of total ERI earned and weighted by funding source.

Key changes to our approach for 2021

Allocations for each New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) subsidiary will be based on the 2020 data for it or for the Institute of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) it replaces.

An indicative funding allocation may be made to a TEO that later transfers delivery to a transitional or other TEO. In that case, we will engage with the new TEO to transfer and adjust the allocation.

Researchers' requests for assessment information

Individual researchers may request information on the assessment of their own Evidence Portfolio from the 2018 Quality Evaluation.

To request this information, you will need to complete a Request for Evidence Portfolio Information form (PDF, 197 Kb).

Important: This is a writable PDF form. Please ensure you download and save the form, complete it, then save again before emailing it to

You can now choose to have your results emailed to you rather than posted, and we encourage you to select this option for speed and efficiency.

To ensure confidentiality, if we have any concerns related to your identity, the information will not be released.

TEOs cannot request this information on behalf of staff.