Review of the Performance-based Research Fund

The Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) is designed to encourage and reward excellent research in New Zealand’s degree granting tertiary education organisations (TEOs) and allocate funding based on research performance. As a capped pool of $315 million per year, the PBRF is the main system of Government funding of tertiary education research capability.

Operation of the PBRF

Find out more about the operation of the PBRF on the Tertiary Education Commission website.

PBRF – Tertiary Education Commission(external link)

The Review of the Performance-based Research Fund

As part of the Education Work Programme, Associate Minister Salesa and Minister Hipkins agreed to review the PBRF.

The aim of the 2019 Review was to examine 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.

This Review of the PBRF commenced in July 2019, following the appointment of an independent PBRF Review panel by Associate Minister Salesa and Minister Hipkins. The panel members were:

  • Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith - Chair (University of Waikato)
  • Professor Wendy Larner (Victoria University of Wellington)
  • Dr David Phipps (York University, Canada)
  • Professor Ian Town (Ministry of Health)
  • Associate Professor Yvonne Underhill-Sem (University of Auckland)
  • Associate Professor Marcus Williams (Unitec Institute of Technology)

The panel provided Associate Minister Salesa with a final report, this included recommendations for changes to the PBRF.

COVID-19 commentary from the PBRF Review Panel

When the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) Review Panel submitted its report in January 2020 we had little indication that the Covid-19 pandemic would have such a significant impact on the research community in Aotearoa.

The Panel wishes to acknowledge the demonstrable width and depth of excellence in health sciences, Māori and Pacific health, modelling, planning, economics, and community care, as just some examples, available to the Government and the New Zealand public that has helped keep our country and our communities relatively safe from the devastating harm of a pandemic. 

The excellence of this research, both funded and unfunded has been humbling, however it has also revealed some of the gaps we have in our research landscape.

One of the intentions of the research assessment exercise (currently called the PBRF) was to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand develops, recognises, harnesses and benefits from a breadth of research excellence. Excellence in a nation that values and uses the best knowledge, where researchers can collaborate for the benefit of Aotearoa and where research of diverse disciplines and fields can make valuable contributions shows itself in a crisis such as this pandemic.

The future for New Zealand will continue to need the best and most capacious understandings of research available and ready for use.

Our recommendations for improvements to the research assessment exercise help to drive that intention forward. The Panel recognises however that the pandemic will have disrupted many research programmes and the work that institutions undertake in supporting research and preparing for the future Quality Evaluation round. 

The Panel believes that our recommendations should be carried forward into the post-COVID environment to ensure that the momentum of research excellence in Aotearoa New Zealand is sustained for the future. We anticipate that our recommendations will be interpreted by both the sector and Government in this new post-COVID environment as we re-imagine what higher education could look like.

The PBRF Review Panel

Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Chair), Professor Wendy Larner, Associate Professor Yvonne Underhill-Sem, Associate Professor Marcus Williams, Dr David Phipps, Professor Ian Town (27 August, 2020)

Targeted consultation

The Ministry of Education is carrying out targeted consultation on proposed changes and options to strengthen the PBRF. These proposed changes and options have been informed by the recommendations made by the panel, and are detailed in the PBRF Review Discussion Document.

This targeted consultation begins Monday 31 August and will close at 5pm on Friday 6 November 2020.

We are seeking feedback via an online survey and through written submissions. Feedback we receive as part of this targeted consultation will inform advice to Ministers, who will decide what to take forward. Final decisions on any changes to the PBRF will be made by the incoming Government.

PBRF Review Discussion document

This PBRF Review Discussion Document outlines twenty-six proposed changes and options for the PBRF that we are consulting on.

PBRF Review survey

We welcome feedback on the proposed changes and options for the PBRF through our online survey. This survey asks for feedback on the proposed changes and options for the PBRF, and will be open from Monday 31 August until 5pm on Friday 6 November 2020.

PBRF Review survey(external link)

Written submissions

We also welcome written submissions on the proposed changes and options for the PBRF, as outlined in the PBRF Review Discussion Document. Written submissions will be accepted from Monday 31 August, until 5pm on Friday 6 November 2020.

Please feel free to use this written submission template.

Submissions should be sent to

Delaying the Next Quality Evaluation Until 2025

The next Quality Evaluation was scheduled to take place in 2024. However, recognising the impact of COVID-19 on researchers and tertiary education organisations, the Associate Minister has decided to delay the next round until 2025. This is due to the delays to the Review caused by COVID-19. Delaying until 2025 will allow the TEC and the Sector Reference Group to conduct a robust process of engagement on any operational changes before guidance is issued.

We are also conscious that the full impacts of COVID-19 on research programmes and researchers may not yet be known, and that a 2024 Quality Evaluation may have risked a lack of engagement as the focus remained on the COVID-19 response.

Background Information

As part of the targeted consultation we are releasing a range of key documents. This includes all advice provided to Ministers, the background papers on the Terms of Reference that the panel considered when carrying out their independent Review and the Cabinet paper approving targeted consultation. The release of these documents is designed to inform discussions on the proposed changes and options and any redactions are made in line with the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982. 




29 July 2019

Background Material for the Review Panel on the PBRF [PDF, 878 KB]


25 September 2019

Terms of Reference Issue Paper 1 – Revisiting PBRF Objectives [PDF, 975 KB]


25 September 2019

Terms of Reference Issue Paper 2 – Minimising Transaction Costs [PDF, 1 MB]


8 October 2019

Terms of Reference Issue Paper 3 – Recognising and Rewarding All Types of Research Activity [PDF, 996 KB]


8 October 2019

Terms of Reference Issue Paper 4 – Sustainable and Diverse Workforce [PDF, 845 KB]


17 October 2019

Update on the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) Review Timeline [PDF, 1.1 MB]


5 November 2019

Terms of Reference Issue Paper 5 – Boosting Impact of Research [PDF, 862 KB]


5 November 2019

Terms of Reference Issue Paper 6 – Improving Research Collaboration [PDF, 849 KB]


20 November 2019

Information to Support Meeting with the PBRF Review Panel [PDF, 770 KB]


12 December 2019

Preliminary Analysis of the Performance-Based Research Fund Review – Options for Reform [PDF, 1.3 MB]


4 February 2020

Summary of the PBRF to Review Panel’s Report and a Proposed Approach to Strengthening the PBRF [PDF, 2.4 MB]


12 February 2020

Seeking Decisions on the PBRF Review [PDF, 2.6 MB]


3 April 2020

PBRF Review Progress Update and Timeframe Scenarios [PDF, 958 KB]


12 June 2020

Draft Cabinet Paper – Report Back on the Performance-Based Research Fund Review [PDF, 1.4 MB]


15 July 2020

Clarifying the date of the next Performance-Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation [PDF, 1.1 MB]


15 July 2020

PBRF Review Cabinet Paper for Lodging [PDF, 817 KB]


17 Jul 2020

Talking points for Cabinet Paper: Report Back on the Performance-Based Research Fund Review [PDF, 817 KB]


Jul 2020

Cabinet Paper: Report Back on the Performance-Based Research Fund Review [PDF, 12 MB]


28 July 2020

Talking Points to Support Meeting with Simeon Brown [PDF, 822 KB]


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