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Study in New Zealand: Education in New Zealand

Higher Education in New Zealand closely resembles that of the UK, as New Zealand was once a British territory. This means that qualifications gained in New Zealand can often be easily transferred to institutions in both the UK and Australia. All education institutions that award qualifications must be accredited by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

New Zealand’s higher education institutions are split into four categories:

  • universities 
  • polytechnics and institutes of technology 
  • colleges of education 
  • private training providers

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Universities in New Zealand are largely research-based and state-owned. They offer courses from certificate to doctorate-level with most courses lasting a full year. Some courses will run only one semester, and these can sometimes be started in the mid-academic year.

Polytechnics and institutes of technology are also state-owned and offer courses equivalent to those offered at universities. These institutions are more vocationally-oriented and offer a more practical approach to learning than many university courses. Polytechnics and institutes of technology offer education from certificate to degree-level. Many also offer postgraduate courses of very high standing on the international scale.


Colleges of education are teacher training institutions most commonly affiliated or merged with the nearest university to them.

Private training providers often offer training in a specific discipline, such as tourism management, hospitality management, cooking, or business. These institutions are also vocationally-oriented and aim to get you into qualified employment directly after graduation. Private training providers are also very welcoming of international students and often offer many distance learning options.

The academic year in New Zealand corresponds to the calendar year starting in late February or early March and ending in October. Some universities may offer summer school courses and the possibility to start your university studies in July, but it is by no means a given. Some polytechnics may also offer courses lasting just one semester, in which case, you may be able to start halfway through the academic year. In general, the system is based on two semesters, although exact start days and holidays may vary between institutions. Count on your first week at the start of the semester to be action-packed with orientation activities, live music, and events.


The structure of New Zealand degrees corresponds very closely to the British system, running from certificates to PhDs, although the complete span is only offered at university institutions. Polytechnics and institutes of technology generally start at certificate level and run up to postgraduate courses. Private training generally offers certificate and diploma qualifications.

A bachelor's degree generally takes three to four years to complete. After this, you are free to enter a postgraduate course, where you can earn a graduate diploma, Master’s degree, or a doctorate. Master's degrees take one to two years to complete and require a higher level of study, including some research not generally incorporated into undergraduate courses. The next stop on from a Master’s degree is, as in much of the world, a PhD.

Postgraduate study is based on your previous degree and requires you to stay largely within the same field of study.

Study in New Zealand

Over 30,000 international students choose New Zealand as their study abroad destination every year. Click here to learn why.

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Student Visas

In most cases, if you are studying for longer than three months you will need a student visa in New Zealand. Learn more about the processes and documents you may need to enter the country.

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Housing & Living Costs

Most New Zealand institutions will be happy to help you to find accommodation before you arrive. Here you'll find information about the types of accommodation on offer in New Zealand.

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Tuition Fees & Scholarships

All higher education in New Zealand requires you to pay a certain fee per year of study. Although it is a substantial amount of money, compared to fees of many other developed countries, fees are relatively low.

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Language & Culture

New Zealand has three official languages. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, cuisine, and more!

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Application Process

Applications for higher education in New Zealand are made directly through the school in question. Here you'll find more information about what you need to apply to a New Zealand university.

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Last update: 24 Jun 2021

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