Performance-Based Research Fund

Performance-Based Research Fund

Last updated 17 February 2020
Last updated 17 February 2020

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) 

Performance-Based Research Fund Recovery

How we will calculate any recoveries for 2019 PBRF funding

TEO’s final 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.  ERI data rarely changes while the QE data remains the same until the next Quality Evaluation.

Funding for the RDC component of the PBRF in 2019 is $78,750,000.  We will use the final RDC data submitted through the August Single Data Return to get the final RDC ratio and round it to 8 decimal places. Value of the 2019 final RDC funding is $78,750,000 multiply by final RDC ratio and rounded to 2 decimal places. We will recover the difference between the value of the Revised RDC Allocation and the value of the final RDC funding for 2019.

We will adjust the allocation of the provider receiving the largest portion of RDC if the 2019 final RDC rounded calculations create an over or under allocation against the 2019 RDC funding component of the PBRF.


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:

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.

Review of the Performance-based Research Fund 2019

This periodic review of the PBRF will examine the ways that the government can continue to support research excellence by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of PBRF settings and ensuring that it delivers solid outcomes for learners, businesses, communities and New Zealand as a whole. Read about the PBRF review on the Ministry of Education's website.