The Brain Drain and the Knowledge Economy

As New Zealand approached the general election at the end of 1999, attention focused on the large numbers of young and often well-qualified New Zealanders leaving the country, and stemming this "brain drain" is one of the challenges that confronts the new government. Simultaneously, New Zealand is debating how to become a "knowledge society" (or, depending on the speaker, a "knowledge economy"), for which well-qualified and talented citizens are touted as a crucial ingredient.

 For many New Zealanders who are currently working outside of New Zealand the issue is not a lack of money, but a lack of opportunity. However, during the election campaign, several politicians asserted that the prospect of tax increases for high-income earners would accelerate the exodus. These comments circulated on the electronic grapevine and, like many expatriate New Zealanders, we found them at odds with our own experience. Worse yet, we believe that several policies aimed at promoting the "knowledge economy" are counter-productive and short-sighted.

 We decided that we should make our voices heard in the election debate, and the on-going discussion about reversing the tide of departing New Zealanders and building a genuine knowledge society. We have continued to discuss these issues and produce policy proposals. Our main focus is on: the brain drain, early career development for academics/researchers, and research support in universities and other institutions.

This website archives documents we have produced, such as policy proposals, media releases, speech notes, op-ed articles, etc, as well as links to other information sources relevant to these issues.

 If you are, or might soon be, a drained brain, contact the webmaster if you want to add your name to the list of signatories. 


  • We have set up an email list, GODWITS-L, to facilitate discussion on these issues. The list is unmoderated but subscription must be approved. Please contact Jolisa Gracewood to get on the list.

  • In June 2000 we sent a major submission to TEAC. The submission deals with five main areas: expatriate relations and the brain drain; early career support; research funding; policy-making in these areas; the humanities. We would appreciate your feedback.

    TEAC is currently seeking input on the "shape" of the tertiary sector: for more details, see their consultation page.

  • Parliament's education and science select committee is holding an inquiry into student fees, loans, allowances and the overall resourcing of tertiary education. Written submissions closed 24 July 2000. 

Documents and Further Information

Maintained by Richard Easther