Education System in New Zealand

New Zealand’s education system focuses on teaching students to solve problems, absorb, analyze and apply information, to work with others to create and innovate. The system supports debate, free thinking and flexibility, and our teachers encourage students to be confident, connected and actively involved, lifelong learners.

Whatever higher education (tertiary education) you’re looking for, you’ll find it in New Zealand. We have eight universities, 18 polytechnics and institutes of technology, around 600 private training institutions and around 20 industry training organizations.

You can study for either academic or more practically focused qualifications, gaining everything from entry-level certificates to diplomas, degrees and doctorates. What’s more, these institutes are located nationwide, so you can study just about anywhere you like.

In New Zealand higher education focuses on the individual, challenges to traditional ideas are welcomed, and a climate of healthy, open debate helps you make your own discoveries.

Our higher education system is on the leading edge of current trends and up-to-date with what’s happening globally. In fact, academics and teachers from many different countries choose to study and work in New Zealand to take advantage of new thinking. It’s why large numbers of students from all over the world come here too.


New Zealand qualifications are highly regarded internationally, and the programs are designed with this in mind. Global best practice is our minimum standard.

All New Zealand universities are featured in the 2013/14 QS World Top 500 University Rankings. We ranked in the World’s top 50 in 18 subjects including Accounting and Finance, Engineering – Civil and Structural, Education, Law and Psychology.

Two thirds of New Zealand universities are featured in the 2012/13 Shanghai Jiao Tong top 500. The prestigious Legatum Institute in London has rated New Zealand No.1 in the world for education.


New Zealand is an excellent choice for anyone who wishes to earn a highly valued, internationally recognized tertiary qualification. You can study everything from short trade courses to specialized, high-powered, research based doctoral study.

New Zealand’s universities are committed to maintaining well established international links and to meeting international standards of scholarship.
They undertake significant, ongoing research projects in order to boost their knowledge bases. There are eight government-funded universities, all of them internationally respected for their academic and research performance.

All of New Zealand’s universities offer a broad range of subjects for undergraduate, masters and doctoral (PhD) degrees in commerce, science and the humanities. Each university has its own specialist subjects such as medicine, engineering, law, veterinary science, agriculture and environmental studies.

A number of universities have more than one campus, often located in different cities, and some have overseas programmes. Our universities also work closely with the business community, in New Zealand and overseas, to include students in leading-edge research and development.

Highlights of studying at a university in New Zealand:

  • Each is a public institution and part funded by government.
  • All offer general degrees with a large choice of subjects and each has strengths in specialised professional degrees.
  • All have flexible pathways between each other in their general degrees.
  • Each is independently governed by its own council.
  • All combine large-group, lecture-style teaching with small-group tutorials, discussions, laboratory and field practice.
  • All mix in-term assessment and end-of-year exams

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs):

New Zealand has 18 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics throughout the country serving around 157,000 students.

These institutions focus on the delivery of high quality vocational and applied qualifications from certificate through to postgraduate level, with industry and employers having strong input into the design of qualifications to ensure the employability of graduates.

Courses strongly emphasise practical skills and experience with relatively small class sizes using high quality facilities such as kitchens, laboratories, workshops, and health clinics that mirror industry settings.

ITP education features include:

  • Small class sizes.
  • A strong focus on practical and applied training and education, work readiness and the employability of graduates.
  • Programmes at a wide range of levels from foundation certificates through to undergraduate degrees, postgraduate programmes and Masters degrees.
  • Many qualifications feature internships, industry projects or cooperative education based in industry to boost graduate employability.
  • Lecturers with industry qualifications and experience.
  • Effective learning pathways that allow students to staircase from lower level foundation qualifications through to higher level advanced and technical qualifications.
  • Flexible delivery options including on-campus, part-time, distance and online study.
  • High quality vocational and applied qualifications which are internationally recognized.

Private Training Establishments:

New Zealand has approximately 600 private training establishments offering a wide range of approved and accredited higher education courses and qualifications. These cover specialist fields like design, information technology, travel and tourism. They serve around 75,000 students.
Some of these establishments also have relationships with industry organisations to deliver industry-specific training.
Wānanga – Māori tertiary institutions – are open to everyone. Wānanga programmes have a practical focus within a supportive Māori kaupapa (foundation) and a strong tikanga (culture, protocol) Māori environment. Unique to New Zealand, a rich, traditional culture meets the new world with new ways of looking at study and at life itself.

New Zealand is a great option for doctoral students. You’ll pay the same fees as New Zealand students. You will experience a collaborative and supportive research culture that’s connected to business and industry around the world.

There are a number of scholarships available for international PhD students, including the New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships.

Each institution has specific scholarship opportunities too. To find out more, visit them online.

Universities around New Zealand are now offering 180-point taught masters qualifications in a wide range of subjects, from business and engineering, to education and information management.

A 180-point masters degree is an excellent option for busy professionals wanting to advance their careers without leaving the workforce for a long time or undergraduates looking for a postgraduate qualification to advance their careers.

You can be sure of its quality: this new qualification has gone through the same robust quality assurance process as all other New Zealand university degrees.

It’s possible to complete it in three semesters, sometimes in a calendar year. It’s fast-tracking, thanks to new thinking.


All quality assured qualifications listed on the NZQF fit into a qualification type. Each qualification type is defined by an agreed set of criteria which includes the level at which the qualification is listed and the number of credits required at each level.

The NZQF has ten levels. Levels are based on complexity, with level one the least complex and level ten the most complex.

All qualifications on the NZQF are assigned one of the ten levels. It is possible for qualifications to include credit achieved at levels above and below the overall level at which the qualification is listed.

Level descriptors and qualification types on the NZQF

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