Get an Education in New Zealand

New Zealand has an international reputation as a provider of quality education. It has a progressive education system with many state of the art facilities. It offers a safe learning environment with excellent study opportunities and support services for international students.

Courses are available for academic, professional and vocational studies at New Zealand institutions - universities, polytechnics and institutes of technology, colleges of education, secondary schools and private training establishments.

New Zealand produces top graduates who can take their place with confidence in the international arena in many disciplines. Sir Ernest Rutherford, who first split the atom, and Dr Bryan Barrett-Boyes, prominent international heart surgeon, are but two examples of the calibre of New Zealand graduates.

English is the prime language of instruction in teaching and discussion and this enables New Zealand qualifications to be recognized in English-speaking countries like the United States and Australia.

International students can should choose their course wisely and keep in mind their future career preferences and personal expectations.

Read more about the quality and standards of education in New Zealand

Tertiary Education in New Zealand

Tertiary Education in New Zealand

The New Zealand tertiary education sector includes about 550 private education and training providers( including English schools), 16 polytechnics & institutes of technology, wananga (Maori learning centres), colleges of education and 8 universities.

To safeguard the quality and reputation of New Zealand tertiary education, the New Zealand government guarantees that all courses and qualifications offered at state institutions meet the minimum quality assurance standards.

The Tertiary Education Institutions (TEIs) provide tertiary education in New Zealand. These include universities, College of Education, institutes of technology and polytechnics, and Wananga. The institutes provide Certificate, Diploma, and Graduate courses.

Tertiary Qualifications
Bachelors degree, graduate diplomas, Masters or Doctorate degrees can be pursued at most New Zealand universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics. Teacher colleges offer New Zealand education courses leading to registration as a qualified teacher.

Colleges, Private Institutes, Polytechnics Form a Major Chunk of Tertiary Education in New Zealand

Colleges play an important role in imparting tertiary education in New Zealand. There has been a regular rise in the number of international students wanting to study tertiary education. Global recognition, work options, and quality teaching skills are some of the attractive features of tertiary education in New Zealand.

Along with the colleges, polytechnics, Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and Industry Training Organizations (ITOs) also offer tertiary education – degrees at par with the colleges. Once, the students study in any of these institutes, they can study further – provided they have the required qualifications – in universities.

Objective behind Tertiary Education
The New Zealand education department has identified some useful objectives behind tertiary education in the country. It set up the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) to ensure these objectives were followed. The aim for tertiary education is to:

  • Provide a firm system of education that is as per quality standards
  • Develop Maori aspirations
  • Allow educational and industrial sector to participate
  • Develop indigenous skills
  • Encourage research work, creativity, and sociology

Professional Courses for Industries
New Zealand has about 20 polytechnics that offer technical knowledge in various fields. The tertiary education in these institutes helps students to get practical knowledge on many skills. These skills are required by the industry, who hire them no sooner they successfully complete the curriculum.

In fact, tertiary education in polytechnics and industry-related courses in colleges offer courses only after consulting the said industry. Often, there are tie-ups with the institute and the company where fresh graduates work as interns.

You can find many such technical institutes in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Auckland. There are privately owned colleges as well as government owned ones in various cities across New Zealand. International students are accepted if they fulfil English proficiency level and have the requisite academic qualification.

Tertiary Education for Economic Growth
Today, more courses are taught on business and finance as this is the area which requires greater workforce today. Ever since tertiary education was implemented in New Zealand, many reforms have been made. The administration has addressed areas where international students are given student loans to study the curriculum, teaching faculty given an increased salaries, and more regulatory systems are developed.

Top Courses Offered
Not only technical courses, there are courses on non-technical subjects, such as arts, human science, and business offered by the TEIs. Generally, certificate to diploma courses are offered by the colleges in this country. Vocational courses on horticulture, forestry, fishing, genetics, visual arts, and tourism are also offered.

The courses are as per the needs of the NZQA and many of the institutes have the rights to reward credits to the students who successfully qualify the final test. There are pre-service educational programs also are offered by some institutes. Teaching and education are often a part of the curriculum in the tertiary education provided by colleges and technical institutes in the country.

Are you studying in a secondary school and looking for tertiary education in New Zealand? Based on your qualifications and aptitude, you can opt for a course in one of the top institutes in the country.

Accessing Higher Eduction in New Zealand
A mature age student is considered to be a person who has left the post-secondary school education for ten years and does not possess an Australian Year 12 or equivalent qualification.

To allow these students to gain access to a higher degree, your education provider will consider completion of minimum Year 10 or equivalent qualification with relevant work experience. All such cases will be assessed on a case-to-case basis
by the Head of Department for Higher Education.

Write to our student counsellor for details on various courses offered to students to make a head start in their career.

Secondary School

Secondary School in New Zealand

Students aged between 13 and 19 attend Secondary School, school years are year 9 to 13 with years 11 to 13 for students working towards their National Certificate of Educational Achievement or NCEA.

There are three different types of Secondary Schools available in New Zealand, Government Schools, Private Schools and Integrated Schools. The difference is that Government schools are funded by the New Zealand Government, Private schools are privately funded and Integrated schools are half funded by the New Zealand Government. Schools may be single-sex schools or coeducational.

The school year runs in 4 terms, and from February to mid-December. There are three-term breaks which are usually a 2 week holiday, these holidays are in April, July and September.

Secondary schooling takes place between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. The year levels are numbered from 9 to 13 (a Year 9 student is typically 13, while a Year 13 student is 17 or 18). Students who wish to attend university must fulfil the requirements of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, which is undertaken during the final three years of high school. The credit based system assigns a numeric value to each subject, with core subjects like English and maths earning more credits than elective subjects like drama or sport. This system gives students the opportunity to tailor their learning, while still achieving fundamental literacy and numeracy requirements.

The NCEA or National Certificate of Educational Achievement is the award that Secondary School students are aiming to achieve. Students work towards this award through years 11 to 13 of New Zealand High School. Based on three levels, being Level 1 during Year 11, Level 2 during Year 12 and Level 3 during Year 13. For students wishing to gain entrance into Higher Education, successful completion and high grades during the NCEA study period are required.

Secondary School Exams

NCEA courses are based on credit, this credit can be achieved through successful completion of work and good marks during the semester and end of year exams.

NCEA - Level 1
This is the first national secondary qualification and replaced the School Certificate.

NCEA - Level 2
This is similar to level 1 except that there is greater flexibility in the choice of courses.

NCEA - Level 3
This final secondary qualification is taken in Year 13 and has replaced the University Entrance Bursaries.

This is an external assessment at level 4.

Intermediate School

Intermediate School Education in New Zealand

Intermediate schools are a bridge between primary school and secondary school. In New Zealand only two non-state intermediate schools exist. Government funded primary and  secondary schools offer the intermediate program.

Find out more about school in New Zealand.

Primary School

Primary School in New Zealand

Primary schooling is for children of the the ages of 5-10 in Years 1 - 6. They progress onto intermediate school in Year 7 and then secondary in year 9. Primary school students study the main subjects aligned with the New Zealand National Curriculum : English, the arts, health and physical education, languages, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences and technology.

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education

New Zealand has more than 4000 licensed early childhood education services available, including kindergartens, childcare centres, play centres, home-based care and playgroups. These facilities provide education and care for children before they are old enough to start primary school.

Education in New Zealand

Education Providers New Zealand

New Zealand Education Providers

New Zealand’s academic model was developed after the British system, meaning that qualifications earned in a New Zealand educational institute, at any level, can generally be used around the world.

New Zealand offers the highest standards of education, as well as a magnificent and pristine natural environment, which cannot help but foster inspiration in the quest for knowledge.

New Zealand is an English speaking country, studying in this country one will find they will be learning in a primarily English learning environment. Classes will consist mainly of other New Zealanders. New Zealand is a part of the Commonwealth, therefore the education system is British based giving graduating students the opportunity for their qualifications to be recognised in many different countries.

International students enrolling in the New Zealand education system will discover an attractive and stimulating academic environment. New Zealand offers eight state universities, five colleges of education, as well as twenty-five state polytechnics and institutions of technology.


The University year in New Zealand starts in March and ends in November, with enrollment periods being at the beginning of each semester. Semester one commences in March and the second semester commences in July. Each course is research-based and the Universities are owned by the state. Offering all courses from Certificate to Doctorate.

The New Zealand university academic year begins in late February and usually ends in October. The year is split into two semesters of about twelve weeks each, except for the Victoria University of Wellington, which has trimesters. University students enjoy a two week break in the middle of the year and about six weeks at the end of the year.

New Zealand has eight major universities, spread out across the north and south islands. These universities are state owned and follow a research based academic method. Many have appeared in international Best Universities lists. Every university in New Zealand offers degrees in the arts and humanities (including teaching), business and the sciences.

Institutes of technology and polytechnics

As with Universities, Institute of Technology and Polytechnics are owned by the state and run from March to November each year. They also offer semester enrollments. Courses are similar to those offered at University also. Certificate to Degree qualifications are also available to study.

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics are also state owned institutes of learning. While they follow a similar structure to universities, they specialise mainly in vocational training, providing teaching in industry based learning such as hospitality or the trades. There is a strong emphasis on practical learning, so teaching and examinations are often hands on, or modelled on a real world example. Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics offer certificate and diploma level qualifications. They sometimes also offer limited undergraduate and post graduate degrees.

Colleges of Education

Educational Colleges have the same enrollment dates, start dates and similar course content to those offered by New Zealand Universities.

Private Training Providers

Privately owned Institutes are mostly specialist schools. Offering courses in areas such as Hospitality, Travel and Business. There are many Private Training Providers all over New Zealand, each is registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Private Training Providers run on time tables that are similar to those of a University.

Private training establishments offer quick training for people wanting to enter the workplace, or upgrade their skills. Teachers are usually working industry professionals instead of academic teachers and for this reason, private training establishments are able to adapt to suit the current marketplace. Courses offered in PTE’s include computing and health care.

English Language Providers.

There is a range of English Language Providers in New Zealand, they offer courses running between 4 weeks and 12 months depending on the students level of competency with the English Language. Offering flexible enrollment dates, many international students choose to undertake an English Language course prior to commencing a more formal qualification such as a University course. Even if your English is competent, it is a good idea to enrol.

Foundation Studies

Foundation Studies are available through many course providers throughout New Zealand. It is generally an introduction to study in New Zealand. A useful course for international students wishing to enter the Higher Education system in New Zealand.
Foundation studies are bridging courses that prepare you for the New Zealand educational system. They are usually undertaken by students who do not have the qualifications for tertiary study, or who have limited English skills. Most universities and some secondary schools offer foundation studies.

The sectors of Education in New Zealand

The New Zealand degrees and certificates are recognized globally. Thousands of international students come over to New Zealand each year to study abroad and make a smooth career move. 

Primary schooling starts at the age of 5 while secondary schooling begins from the age of 13. Students after studying for 5 more years move on to tertiary education in colleges or universities to study further. The school students must appear for the a test to qualify for an internationally recognized certification, New Zealand secondary school certificate or the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).  

There are 8 national universities in the country that offer undergraduate and post-graduate courses. There are 20 recognized technical institutes and polytechnics that offer skilled curriculum and vocational training. Higher education offered in colleges, polytechnics, or universities has 10 levels of study. Level 1 starts with a certificate degree and Level 10 is equivalent to the doctoral degree. Students need to study courses of greater complexity and difficulty as they attend the successive levels. 

International students can study in New Zealand institutes provided they meet English language criteria and have the required academic qualification. The courses and degrees are internationally accredited. The Ministry of Education takes care of the standard as per the accepted norm in the international arena. The New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) keeps a tab on teaching and assessment quality. From time to time, audits are conducted to ensure, recognized educational institutes follow similar standards as expected at their level. 

Academic Year New Zealand

Secondary schooling

In New Zealand, secondary schools (known as either high schools or colleges) have 4 terms in a year, each of them being 10 weeks long. They start in February and end in mid-December. Their holiday breaks are 2 weeks long and are held in April, July and September. Classes are held Monday-Friday, from 8.45-3.15pm, with an hour’s lunch break, while sports and other extra-curricular activities are held after school and on Saturday mornings.

Because qualifications in the final 3 years of secondary school are based on an overall assessment of your work throughout the year, late enrolment may not be possible.


As for universities, the timetable varies depending on which one you attend. However in general the year is usually divided into 2 semesters, each one being 12 weeks long. There is a 2-week break in the middle of each semester and a 6- week mid-year break. The university year begins in either late February or early March, and ends in October. Most subjects are held over both semesters, but some only take up one semester. It may be possible to start mid-year study in July. Classes are held Monday to Friday, and libraries and other services are available on weekends. Some universities offer summer school courses from November to February, which is good if you want to reduce the length of time it takes to complete your degree. Each semester starts off with an orientation week.

Private Training Establishments

Most of these run on a similar timetable to government tertiary institutes or universities.

Language schools

These run all year; their subjects may be as short as one or two weeks, or as long as a whole year, and classes are held Monday-Friday. There may be outings or other activities available on the weekend.

Technological and Polytechnic Institutes

These have two semesters: February-June and July-November. The breaks are similar to those of secondary schools. Some courses go for half a year and start in July.

Education Costs in New Zealand

New Zealand Education CostsNZ offers a quality English language based education at an affordable price. When compared with other providers, New Zealand has about a 20% cost advantage over Australia and a 50% cost advantage over the US and UK.

Typically the total cost of one year's study at state high school ranges from $NZD 20,000 - 22,000 ($US 15,000 - 16,500). This comprises $NZD 10,000 - 12,000 for tuition and $9,000 - 10,000 for accommodation and related costs.

Education in a private school typically costs from $NZD 30,000 - 35,000 ($US 23,000 - 27,000).

University education tuition and accommodation costs on average $NZ 30,000 per year (tuition costs vary from course to course). The tuition fee is generally $NZD 16,000 - 19,000