Everything You Need to Know about New Zealand Higher Education
The 3 main types of Higher Education System in New Zealand: Universities, Institute of Technology and Polytechnics, and Private Training Establishments.
New Zealand Education System, New Zealand Qualifications Framework, Education Provider Categories
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Everything You Need to Know about Kiwi Higher Education

New Zealand Higher Education

17 Mar Everything You Need to Know about Kiwi Higher Education

One of the most important things to consider in studying abroad is the education system of the country you’re looking to study in. More often than not, it will be quite different from your own home country and, if you’re unprepared, you’ll quickly get lost in the weeds!

But, fret not. In this article, we’ll cover all the basics so that you can make smart decisions about what kind of school you want to study in and what level of qualification you want to aim for.


Higher Education System in New Zealand

First things first, the school structure. New Zealand has 3 main types of tertiary education: Universities, Institute of Technology and Polytechnics, and Private Training Establishments.


There are 8 universities in New Zealand, all of which are government-funded and ranked in the Global Top 450 in QS World University Rankings 2016/17. The Programmes offered are of higher degree level of education that is internationally recognised.

Institute of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs)

While universities provide courses that are more academic and research-led, ITPs focus on vocational and skills-based courses. These schools work closely with businesses in New Zealand to offer programs that match the needs of the community.

Private Training Establishments (PTEs)

The third branch of higher education is PTEs which offer vocational courses focusing on specific industries, like business or travel and tourism.

You can find an overview of the Kiwi Education System on http://www.education.govt.nz/ or www.studyinnewzealand.govt.nz


New Zealand Educational System

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New Zealand Qualifications Explained

When you browse through the courses offered by different schools, you’ve probably encountered the words: “NZQF Level”.

“NZQF” stands for New Zealand Qualification Framework. It is designed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) to determine the level of knowledge and skill you have gained after graduating. It’s important to understand because the qualification level you achieve will determine what sort of employment opportunities are open to you.

The NZQF has 10 levels, with Level 10 being the most complex to learn. Students who want to pursue higher education in New Zealand typically go for Level 4 to 10 qualification, receiving a certificate or a diploma or a degree.

Here’s a quick outline taken from the NZQA website:

 Level  Certificate  Diploma  Degree
 10  Doctoral Degree
 9  Master’s Degree
 8  Postgraduate Certificate  Postgraduate Diploma  Bachelor Honours Degree
 7  Graduate Certificate  Graduate Diploma  Bachelor’s Degree
 6  Certificate  Diploma
 5  Certificate  Diploma
 4  Certificate

For more details, you can view the New Zealand Qualifications Framework eBook.


Understanding School Categories

Additionally, the NZQA is also responsible for evaluating the quality of education provided by tertiary schools, particularly ITPs and PTEs. The evaluation is divided into 4 categories which are based on the school’s (1) educational performance, and (2) organisational self-assessment.

Each category is defined by NZQA as follows:

Category 1

Two Highly Confident judgements, or a Highly Confident judgement for educational performance and a Highly Confident/Confident judgement for self-assessment capability

Category 2

Two Confident judgements, or a Highly Confident judgement in self-assessment and a Confident judgment in educational performance

Category 3

Any Not Yet Confident judgement

Category 4

Any Not Confident judgement


International students should aim for schools in Category 1 or Category 2 to be assured of quality education. You can read the full Category definitions under Rule 11 of the External Evaluation and Review Rules 2013.


Final Thoughts…

Even though New Zealand is often described as “laid-back”, it’s obvious that they take their education system very seriously. By aligning the school system as well as the courses offered to the economic needs of the country, New Zealand schools produce work-ready students.

So, if you are thinking of working in NZ after studying, be assured there are jobs waiting to be filled.

Now that you know the Kiwi Educational System, you’ll know what to look for as you research schools and courses.

If you have any questions, message us on Facebook or tweet us @AheadIntlEduc


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