The New Zealand education system

The education system in New Zealand is based on the UK model and there are many similarities between the two generally in terms of the range and types of qualifications offered, teaching methods and student lifestyle.

There are two types of tertiary or post-school education available in New Zealand – university study and vocational study.

New Zealand universities offer a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes including Bachelor degrees, graduate and postgraduate certificates and diplomas, Masters (available by coursework or research) and PhDs.

The minimum entry requirement to study a bachelor programme at a New Zealand university in New Zealand is for the applicant to have qualifications equivalent to A-Levels. Other UK school leaving qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate, the Pre-U Diploma and Scottish Highers are all accepted. Each university sets its own academic entry requirements, so the points or grades required for admission to a degree will vary according to the degree being applied for and the university that teaches it. Some degrees also have subject pre-requisites.

If you wish to study a Masters degree the minimum academic requirement will be that you have a UK Bachelors degree. Again, however, it is important to note that all New Zealand universities will then set individual requirements for each programme and it is important to be aware of these.

Most standard Bachelor degrees in New Zealand are three years in length. A Masters programme is generally two years in length, while a PhD would require between three and four years of study.

Your guide to universities in New Zealand


Vocational institutions offer more practical, hands on, industry-focused training. In New Zealand vocational government-backed providers are called Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics. There are twenty of these in New Zealand. There are also private institutions that provide vocational courses.

Vocational providers offer students that chance to study for a Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma. These qualifications range in length from six months to two years. Many Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology also offer Bachelor degrees, some also offer postgraduate qualifications.

In order to be eligible to apply for a Certificate level programme, GCSEs or equivalent would be required. Vocational training institutions will also sometimes consider applications on the basis of work experience.

The beginning of the academic year in New Zealand is February. This intake is called Semester 1. Many of the universities and vocational institutions also offer students the opportunity to start in semester 2 which begins in July.

Your guide to college study in New Zealand