The Government has now asked the Productivity Commission to investigate what changes might face the tertiary education sector.
The Government's advisory think tank today said it would be looking at "how trends in technology, internationalisation, population, tuition costs and demand for skills may drive changes in models of tertiary education".
"The inquiry will consider how New Zealand's institutional and policy settings help or hinder the adoption of new models of tertiary education, as well as looking broadly across what new models there are or what might emerge," said commission chairman Murray Sherwin.
Tertiary education played a significant part in the economy. There were 400,000 tertiary students in New Zealand and the sector attracted annual government funding on $3 billion, he said.
An issues paper outlining the proposed approach, the context for the inquiry and a list of key questions is expected to be available in February 2016 and the final report to the government is due on February 28, 2017.
The commission, which has recently completed a study on housing affordability, is also looking at land for housing and more effective social services.