New Zealand Universities
& College Profiles

Higher Education in New Zealand

The higher education system in New Zealand is structurally similar to the British model. It comprises five strands: the universities, the polytechnics and institutes of technology, education colleges, the private tertiary sector and wananga (M_ori centres of learning). The academic year runs from late February to November.

Universities in New Zealand

There are eight universities in New Zealand, a number that is fixed by state legislation. They are: Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Canterbury, Lincoln and Otago. All of them offer courses at undergraduate level and postgraduate level and they all offer a broad range of subjects in the arts and science, although each has developed its own specialist subject areas in fields of technology, computer studies, agriculture, medicine etc. Students will normally begin study on their major subject from the beginning of their degree, without having to do foundation or general study for the first year as is the case in many countries. This makes the majority of degrees three years in duration with a masters requiring one year if following on from an honours degree, or two with a bachelor’s. Doctoral degrees usually require a minimum of three years. The English language requirement of each institution should be checked, but minimum levels specified by universities are 6.0 in IELTS or 550 in TOEFL for most undergraduate courses. The degree programmes offered by New Zealand universities are internationally recognized and accepted, and are accredited by national bodies. For more information on accreditation look at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website

Polytechnics or Institutes of Technology

There are 23 polytechnics or institutes of technology in New Zealand. There are some differences between them and the universities; in general, they tend towards a more vocational, technical and professional role, and the student intake tends to be more locally based ­ all towns with a population exceeding 20,000 has a polytechnic locally. However, the traditional role of polytechnics has expanded over the last decade, and they now offer a wider range of courses and levels and many now have an increased research role, especially in applied and technological fields. Qualifications now available include degrees and even some at post-graduate level, although certificates and diplomas still form the majority of qualifications awarded. The emphasis of courses tends to be rather more student-focussed than is the case in universities, with small classes and a practical basis for learning. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is responsible for approving and registering all courses and national qualifications offered at polytechnics. The tuition costs at polytechnics is generally lower than at universities in New Zealand.

Colleges of Education

There are four colleges of education in New Zealand: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington. They provide programmes for aspiring teachers at early childhood, primary and secondary level, as well as for some other disciplines such as social work. Post graduate studies, professional development courses and other educationally based courses are also available. Working within schools is part of the training involved in courses leading to teaching qualifications. The approval and accreditation of non-degree programmes within these colleges is under the authority of the Association of Community Colleges of New Zealand (ACENZ), delegated from NZQA, and is carried out by the Colleges of Education Accreditation Committee on their behalf. An international teacher exchange programme involves teachers from New Zealand working overseas and brings overseas teachers to New Zealand to work. This programme is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and managed by ACENZ, which also offers professional development programmes for teachers overseas. For further information, visit the ACENZ website:

The Private Sector

In addition to the state-owned institutions there are some within the private sector that are accredited through the NZQA, which ensures quality control. Programmes are available in a wide range of subject areas and levels, up to postgraduate level. Private Training Establishments (PETs), which number over 850, are privately owned and funded. Courses in English language, business, tourism, air traffic control and many more are available, and there are a number of specialist schools also providing training. Some PETs attract government funding and many are registered and approved by the NZQA.


W_nanga are M_ori centres of tertiary learning that have been established as tertiary education institutions within the last decade. There are three W_nanga, all are in the public sector and they offer study programmes in which M_ori traditions and culture take a central role.

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