There is a rapid increase in the number of international students in New Zealand, with a growing trend towards longer stays and higher level study. The quality of a New Zealand education is well recognised internationally. Due to the fact that New Zealand’s education system is based on the British system, one can choose to complete an undergraduate degree in New Zealand and a post graduate degree in another English-speaking country.

New Zealand degrees have a reputation around the world for being practical, modern and desirable. In some niche areas such as biotechnology, forensic science and marine engineering, New Zealand degrees and programmes are recognised internationally.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), part of the Ministry of Education, keeps the register of all quality assured qualifications available in New Zealand tertiary institutions and secondary schools.

New Zealand’s education system comprises of three levels – Early Childhood Education, Schooling, and Tertiary Education. Education is compulsory for all students aged between 6 and 16 years. A vast majority of students begin school at age 5.

There are ten levels involved in a qualification

  • Certificate is the lowest level and the highest is a doctoral degree. The complexity increases with an increase in the level. The names of the four qualifications and their levels are:
  • Certificates are levels 1 to 4
  • Diplomas are levels 5 and 6
  • Diplomas, Bachelor's degrees and graduate diplomas are level 7
  • Postgraduate certificates and diplomas, and bachelor's degrees with honours are level-8
  • Master's degrees are level 9
  • Doctoral degrees are level 10
  • Certificates may be used in a wide range of contexts across all levels up to and including level 7, and are often used to prepare candidates for both employment and further education and training.
  • 'National Certificates' (certificates approved to use the term 'National') recognise skills and knowledge that meet nationally endorsed standards (unit and achievement standards).
  • Undergraduate/bachelor’s degrees are awarded by a university after three or four years of full-time study, and lead to graduate level studies. There are one year certificate programs and two year diplomas also.
  • Graduate/post graduate degrees lead to an advanced degree, diploma and certificate. Bachelors/undergraduate degree (3 or 4 years) is a pre-requisite for participating in graduate studies.
  • Polytechnics and institutes of technology offer study for a certificate, diploma or degree.
  • M.B.A. programs require: a minimum of 18 months to two years of relevant work experience; and 6.5 bands in IELTS..
  • Participating in a master’s program requires: a three or four years bachelor’s degree with high academic standing.
  • Doctorate or Ph.D. ranks above a master’s degree. This degree requires 4 to 7 years to complete full time. It requires a combination of course work, original research, and a thesis. It requires a master’s degree. A direct entry from a bachelor’s degree to a Ph.D. program can be possible, depending on the school and program.

Post-doctoral programs are much more specialized, and research oriented programs. One of the most important factors in granting post-doctorate fellowships is the personal network established between the interested applicant and the faculty member within the institution.

Types of Institution
Institutes of technology and polytechnics
  • New Zealand Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics are state owned
  • The ITPs offer courses equivalent in merit to those offered in New Zealand universities.
  • ITPs offer courses from certificate level with some offering full degree and postgraduate level studies
  • The academic year is from March to November. A July start date might be available for some courses
Colleges of education

Most colleges of education have merged with their regional university. Thus, their course content and start dates are in line with the universities.

Private Training Providers (PTEs)
  • There are many PTE’s throughout New Zealand
  • Certain PTEs run courses in a particular discipline, like business or travel and tourism
  • All PTEs are required to be registered with NZQA
  • Usually, they run on a timetable similar to state tertiary institutions
English language providers
  • Most tertiary and private English language providers have flexible start dates throughout the year.
  • Many international students enrol in English for Academic Study courses prior to formal academic studies.
  • Special English language courses are available throughout the year, and range from 4 weeks to 12 months.
  • Students who are competent in English often do short-term foundation studies or pre-university orientation studies.

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