Higher Education in New Zealand

Although similar to the British higher education system, we’ve put together a brief guide to what makes up the same system in New Zealand.

1. State owned institutions

State owned universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and wānanga (Māori centres of learning) are institutions that have been set up by the New Zealand 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.

2. Universities

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.

3. Polytechnics

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.

4. 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.

5. Wānanga

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.

6. Teacher training

New Zealand is internationally recognised for its excellent education standards and as a provider of quality teachers.

There are six government-funded specialist education institutions, two operating from within universities, and the others offering their programmes in collaboration with their local university.

They offer training for teachers from early childhood to primary, secondary, special and higher education level.

7. Privately owned providers

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.

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:

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.

Further information

For more help and advice on applying to university in New Zealand, please see: