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New Zealand Qualifications for international students

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New Zealand Qualifications for international students

The quality assurance practices that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has in place gives both local and international students confidence when it comes to choosing a course of study in New Zealand.

Is my New Zealand qualification a meaningful, recognised qualification?

Students intending to study here can be assured of achieving qualifications of a consistent quality and a standard comparable to qualifications achieved in leading educational institutions in other parts of the world.

The New Zealand Government has put in place strong national quality assurance systems designed to help institutions maintain the quality and consistency of training and assessment programmes. All courses, programmes and qualifications offered at state institutions must be approved by a quality assurance body.

All national certificates, diplomas and degrees offered by New Zealand institutions are quality assured to protect your investment in education. It is illegal in New Zealand to use terms like 'university', 'degree', 'polytechnic', 'national qualification' unless approved by a government body.

Courses at private training establishments can also be quality assured and those that are will state that they are registered and approved by NZQA.

Where can I study?

New Zealand welcomes international students at all of our institutions.

New Zealand's immigration laws prevent an international student from studying at a private provider that has not been registered or from taking a course that is not NZQA approved.

New Zealand offers the international student the opportunity to study at high-quality secondary schools as well as undertake a range of qualifications run by quality assured tertiary institutions.

Secondary schools

Secondary schooling is compulsory in New Zealand until the age of 16 years. Most secondary schools are government established but there are some private or integrated schools that have special philosophical or religious traditions. All secondary schools offer national qualifications that are recognised by all New Zealand tertiary organisations.

Examination and assessment in New Zealand secondary schools

Between 2002 to 2004, a new national qualification for senior students, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is being introduced into secondary schools. NZQA administers this system. NCEA level 1 replaced School Certificate in 2002.

What is NCEA?

NCEA is New Zealand's national qualification for secondary students. It is a mixture of external examination and internal assessment.

  • NCEA Level 1 is broadly equivalent to the English General Certificate of Education (GCE).
  • Level 3 is equivalent to English A Levels and Australia's Higher School Certificate.
  • The University Entrance award (required for entrance to university by school leavers) is based on NCEA credits. Polytechnics and other tertiary institutions will use NCEA results when enrolling students.

More information about NCEA...

Tertiary Institutions

State Owned

State owned universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and wānanga (Māori centres of learning) are institutions that have been set up by the Government and approved by the Minister of Education. They are government funded and market responsive institutions that offer programmes of study and research in demand by both domestic and international students.


New Zealand's eight universities are part of the international university community. Degree programmes from New Zealand universities are recognised internationally by all leading universities.

More information on the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee website


There are 23 polytechnics or institutes of technology in New Zealand. Polytechnics have traditionally specialised in vocational training, but that role has expanded over the last decade to meet the needs of learners and the economy. Many are involved in research activities, particularly in applied and technological areas and other degrees.

More information on the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics website

Colleges of Education

Colleges of education provide programmes required for early childhood, primary and secondary school teaching qualifications. They also provide training for other occupational groups such as social workers. All courses involve supervised on-the-job training for students.

More information on the Association of the Colleges of Education in New Zealand website


Wānanga, Māori centres of tertiary learning, were established as tertiary education institutions in the last decade. These offer advanced study and research programmes where ahuatanga Māori (Māori tradition) and tikanga Māori (Māori custom) are an integral part of the programme. There are three wānanga in the public sector.

All of these institutions, universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and wānanga, offer a variety of qualifications including degrees that share the same quality assurance status.

Privately owned

As well as state-owned education providers there are approximately 860 private training establishments (PTEs) in New Zealand. These PTE's are privately owned and funded, although some of their courses attract government funding. They offer a wide variety of courses that lead to qualifications in a large range of vocations from scuba-diving to hospitality to business.

National Qualifications Framework

The National Qualifications Framework is a system of national qualifications available through course work in schools, polytechnics, colleges of education and wananga and work-based training programmes. It links 800 different qualifications across almost every industry.

Many of the courses international students undertake will be covered by the National Qualifications Framework. The Framework gives students the ability to plan what, where and how to learn and gives them a clear understanding of what skills and knowledge are needed to succeed in their chosen field.

The Framework provides nationally recognised, consistent standards and qualifications, regardless of where learning and assessment are undertaken.

The Framework has received strong endorsement and support from New Zealand's education and training providers, employers and national industry and professional groups. It is also compatible with similar systems being established in the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Australia and North America.

Who is responsible for the quality of education?

All state-owned institutions enjoy a high degree of academic freedom. They determine their own curricula, appoint staff and determine conditions of service. They select students within limitations on numbers and choose their own programmes of research.

However, to ensure that both the Government and individuals are investing in quality education, training and assessment, the Government has set up nationally recognised processes of quality assurance.

There are a number of government appointed bodies responsible for approving qualifications in New Zealand and for the quality that underpins the delivery of qualifications. These bodies are the:

  • New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA): responsible for approving and registering all courses and national qualifications offered at polytechnics and private training establishments, also responsible for accrediting and registering private training establishments including wananga. In order to offer NZQA approved courses a PTE must be a registered provider with NZQA. NZQA also oversees and administers state secondary school qualifications.
  • New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee (NZVCC): responsible for approving all diplomas, undergraduate and graduate programmes offered by New Zealand universities.
  • ITPNZ - Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand: responsible for overseeing and approving all local qualifications offered at polytechnics.
  • Association of Colleges of Education in New Zealand (ACENZ): responsible for approving and overseeing qualifications offered at Colleges of Education in New Zealand.

All qualifications approved by these organisations will be listed in the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications.

KiwiQuals website - find and compare qualifications

All national qualifications offered by the full range of secondary and tertiary providers, including universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and private training providers are listed on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications.

You can find and compare these qualifications on the KiwiQuals website.

The Register has been developed to give all students, both local and international, a clear and coherent picture of New Zealand's education and training products.

KiwiQuals can help you identify the best learning path for your particular field of interest and ensure that all courses you are considering are quality assured national qualifications.

For example, if you are interested in tourism, you can access KiwiQuals, and find and compare all the qualifications available throughout the country.

Useful websites

Education New Zealand
Showcases the benefits of New Zealand as a study destination. Links to overseas centres, information on all tertiary (higher education), secondary and English Language institutions, and additional information for international students such as cost of living and accommodation.

Federation of Independent English Language Schools of New Zealand Inc (FIELS)
Lists services and links to members throughout New Zealand.

New Zealand Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education is responsible for national education policy. View the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students (a mandatory code of conduct for providers of education and care for international students) and other information for international students

New Zealand Immigration Service
Details on student visa applications and conditions

More information

Overseas students who wish to study at a New Zealand institution can get information about fees, courses of study and academic entry requirements from the New Zealand Embassy or High Commission in their home country.

Most of our institutions have their own publications and websites which will provide further useful information. Scholarships for Students Studying In Newzealand

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