Education System

New Zealand’s education system has three levels – early childhood education, secondary schooling, and tertiary education – across which students can follow a variety of flexible pathways.Typically, a bachelor’s degree will take three years, and a further year of study will lead to an Honors degree. Not every degree follows this 3+1 pattern: there are some four-year degrees (which may or may not be awarded with Honors), and some specialist bachelor’s degrees, which take longer to complete. Typically, Honors may be awarded with first class, upper second class, lower second class or third class, but this can vary from degree to degree. A bachelor’s degree will be followed by a Master’s degree.A candidate who does not hold an Honors degree may be awarded a Master’s degree with honors: such a degree usually involves two years study, compared to one year for a Master’s degree for a candidate who does have an Honors degree. A candidate who has either a Master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with Honors can proceed to a doctoral degree.

National policies and frameworks for regulation and guidance, requirements and funding arrangements are set by central government and administered through its agencies. Administrative authority for most education service provision is devolved to education institutions, which are governed by individual Boards or Councils.New Zealand has strong quality assurance systems which ensure consistent, high quality education across all levels of the education system, both public and private.There are several government checks and controls on the education system and institutions in New Zealand. Government bodies like NZQA and NZVCC regularly audit and approve all the qualifications being conferred as well as the quality of their delivery to students.

Tertiary education

New Zealand has a range of different government-funded options for tertiary study universities, polytechnics, institutes of technology and colleges of education. There are also several thousand private training establishments (PTEs) offering a wide range of courses.


New Zealand has eight universities. All offer general undergraduate and graduate degrees and diplomas in arts, sciences and commerce, as well as specialist degrees in particular disciplines. Undergraduate degrees such as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or a BSc (Bachelor of Science) take three to four years to complete. Vocational or professional training may take longer.

Each university publishes an annual Calendar detailing the courses scheduled during the academic year. These are held in the reference sections of most public libraries and can also be purchased from leading booksellers and university bookshops. Term dates vary between universities. University Calendars also specify fees and entry requirements.


New Zealand has 20 polytechnics offering a wide range of academic, vocational and professional courses. As well as three- and four-year degrees, polytechnics also offer short full-time and part-time courses. These courses are scheduled throughout the year.

Each polytechnic publishes an annual Prospectus detailing the courses scheduled during the academic year. Fees and entry requirements are also included in the Prospectus.

Colleges of education / Teacher training colleges

In New Zealand, a recent trend has seen colleges of education (or ‘teacher training colleges’) merge with universities in their respective areas. Auckland, Waikato, Massey and Victoria Universities already offer teacher training and Christchurch and Dunedin Colleges of Education plan to merge with Canterbury and Otage Universities for the 2007 academic year. A number of polytechnics and private training establishments also run teaching courses, but not a comprehensive range of teacher training programmes.