The Education Ministry's annual report on the tertiary education system says that for the first time a majority of New Zealanders - 52% - have a degree or other tertiary qualification.
The report also shows that in 2011 people with a bachelor's degree or higher qualification earned 65% more than those without a qualification - up 2% on 2010.
In 2011, it says, 17% of people aged 15 and over had a bachelor's degree or higher qualification, compared to 11% in 2001.
Women continue to outnumber men in holding a bachelor's or higher degree, while men are more likely than women to have certificates and diplomas.
The report also found enrolments in adult and community education courses rose by 16% last year.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says the Government is committed to increasing achievement in the tertiary sector and better matching education to the skills needed in the economy.