Palmy folk a brainy bunch

Palmerston North people have a degree of difference over other Kiwis - their brains.

The city boasts the biggest percentage of doctorate degrees per capita of anywhere in New Zealand, according to Census statistics.

Nearly 2 per cent of Palmerston North people have a PhD, compared with the country's average of 0.6 per cent.

This means that one person in every 51 has a PhD in Palmerston North, whereas one in 151 Kiwis has one.

Closely followed on the smart scale was Dunedin, home of Otago University - the city has 1923 PhDs among its 100,824 people, which equates to 1.9 per cent or one in every 52 people holding PhD honours.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said Palmerston North's brainpower was a competitive advantage and something it should boast about.

"It's really important Palmerston North understands and uses that unique aspect of it.

"There's a good concentration of people and obviously it's a city that offers a good environment and lifestyle for researchers to bring up their families and that's encouraging."

Research-based doctoral degrees see scholars contribute to society through exploring an area of study previously untouched.

It's often a culmination of years of study, starting at bachelor level and blossoming beyond a masters. But the major component of all PhDs are their originality, creativity and innovative-thinking, according to NZQA.

That's something Palmerston North revels in, with the city playing host to Massey University, UCOL and the International Pacific College, as well as research centres like the Riddet Institute, Plant & Food Research, the Bio Commerce Centre, AgResearch and Fonterra laboratories. Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said brains brought a certain level of income to the city and created other jobs.

"It's certainly a benefit for us to have a number of highly educated people in our community."

Manawatu-based historian Dr Helen Dollery - who did a PhD on how the Scouts, Brownies and Cubs movement in New Zealand shapes more rounded citizens - said Palmerston North was the perfect place to complete a doctorate degree.

Dr Dollery did her undergraduate, post-graduate, masters and doctorate degree all at Massey University's Turitea campus.

Her husband Tony Signal, has a doctorate in physics.

"People bag Palmy, but it's an easy place to live, and often people who come to study here end up staying around."

The population figures reflect the number of people who filled in qualifications information in the census.

Manawatu Standard