Universities in New Zealand are in 3% of the best universities in the world. The cost of training here is cheaper than in Europe and the USA, and the quality of education is recognized throughout the world. In addition, New Zealand has a mild climate, favorable environmental conditions, a high standard of living and safety, as well as surprisingly beautiful nature. All this makes higher education in New Zealand attractive for thousands of young people from around the world.

List of the best universities in New Zealand

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Advantages of New Zealand’s universities

  • International ratings. New Zealand is the only country that managed to get all of its universities in the QS[1] top 450 and THE top 600. In addition, all 8 universities occupy positions in the top 100 QS universities in various disciplines[2].
  • Education system. New Zealand’s universities have a strict system for assessing and ensuring the quality of education, which allows students to be confident in their degrees. The structure of levels and qualifications, according to which programs (and related documents) are organized in educational institutions, is recognized worldwide in accordance with the Lisbon Convention.
  • Support for international students. In New Zealand, there is a Pastoral Care Code of Practice for international students, which ensures the safety and well-being of students from other countries[3].

Disadvantages of New Zealand’s universities

  • Doctoral studies. Many students of doctoral programs say that classes are almost entirely made up of foreigners. New Zealanders do not value education after graduate school, and only a few enter doctoral studies. This is mainly due to the fact that New Zealanders firmly believe in the importance of practical skills and benefits of training right at the workplace.
  • The cost of training. Foreign students who study at New Zealand universities pay more than double compared to the locals. Moreover, for citizens of New Zealand, there is even a special system Fees Free that allows them to study for free. The average cost of one year of study at the bachelor’s level for foreign students is 16,472 USD, while for locals — about 6,101 USD.
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Requirements for admission to universities in New Zealand

ProgramMin. ageDurationMin. cost/yearAvg. cost/yearMin. language levelExams
Foundation16+6-18 months10,982 USD15,252 USDB2IELTS/TOEFL
College16+1-2 years6,101 USD10,372 USDB2IELTS/TOEFL
Bachelor’s18+3-4 years11,104 USD16,472 USDB2IELTS/TOEFL
Master’s21+1-2 years11,836 USD19,218 USDC1IELTS/TOEFL
MBA21+1 year22,482 USD28,674 USDC1IELTS/TOEFL
Doctoral22+3-4 years3,966 USD4,728 USDC1IELTS/TOEFL

New Zealand’s universities, despite their overall subordination to the Ministry of Education, have autonomy in making decisions about entrance examinations. Typically, universities do not conduct their own exams, evaluating applicants according to the available documents: the GPA, resume, motivation letter and references.

Applicants can apply for bachelor’s programs if one of the criteria is met:

  • Having the international baccalaureate diploma (IB);
  • Having a certificate of complete secondary education;
  • Having completed one university year in the country of residence;
  • Completed Foundation course in New Zealand.

Foundation courses are designed specifically for international students to help them prepare for university. Some universities do not require the completion of such programs before applying, while others consider the foundation certificate a prerequisite. Detailed information can be found on the website of an individual university.

Students who enter master’s or doctoral studies must also provide a research proposal and abstracts of existing publications.

Another important criterion for admission to the program at any stage is a language certificate. Since January 2019, universities have refused to conduct internal tests to assess the level of English proficiency among applicants. Now students are selected on the basis of certificates approved by the NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority):

Types of schools in New Zealand

There are 8 public universities, 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics, and more than 1,000 private educational institutions which include institutes, universities, colleges, vocational schools, and English language schools. The main types of educational institutions in New Zealand are:

  • Universities offer students a classical education, which consists of three consecutive stages: bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies. Usually studying for a bachelor's takes 3 years with the opportunity to take an extra year to obtain an honors degree. But not all programs follow the 3 + 1 scheme: some take from 4 to 6 years. The master's program takes 2 years for students who graduated from bachelor’s without honors, and 1 year for students who graduate with honors. Doctoral programs last at least 3 years.
  • Institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) provide technical and vocational education. Most courses lead to qualifications of levels 1-6, but there is also a certain set of programs with degrees, up to doctorates.
  • Wānanga are state universities that offer students education in the context of Maori culture, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Degrees and certificates issued by such educational institutions are officially recognized by the state and do not differ from documents received at other universities. There are three accredited wānanga in New Zealand: Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Te Wānanga o Raukawa and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Colleges in New Zealand

Professional education in New Zealand is organized and supervised by Industry training organizations (ITOs). By themselves, they do not provide training but establish criteria for obtaining various professional qualifications, as well as the content of the programs.

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics provide technical and vocational training. In addition, they are also engaged in scientific, applied and technological research, which contribute to the development of the industry.

In New Zealand there are 16 technological institutes and polytechnics. The educational process usually focuses on practical knowledge and skills that will help graduates to find work as quickly as possible. Students spend a significant part of their study on internships.

Many institutes also offer undergraduate programs in areas such as business, IT and science. Some even organize master's and doctoral courses, most often through partnerships with other universities.

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Public and private universities

Higher education institutions in New Zealand must pass the accreditation process to be able to register with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). Only accredited educational institutions can issue educational documents according to the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). Each year, the government of New Zealand provides nearly 3 billion dollars to finance educational institutions, including accredited private universities. It is worth noting that even though a private educational institution may have the word "university" in its name, all non-state universities belong to the Private Training Establishments (PTEs), in compliance with the laws of New Zealand.

Most often, private universities offer a fairly limited range of subjects and programs — mainly they award certificates and diplomas in the fields of tourism, design, and ICT. This is due to the requirements of the labor market or the needs of a particular company that organizes and funds the training. On the other hand, private universities have more opportunities to provide students with the necessary equipment and practical skills.

A complete list of accredited private schools can be found here.

Groups and associations of educational institutions

All eight state universities in New Zealand are under the umbrella of the organization called Universities New Zealand. Their goal is to develop educational standards and monitor their implementation, strengthen cooperation between universities, develop international partnerships, and also make decisions in the field of education based on the opinion of all universities. One of the projects of the organization is the Women in Leadership program which is aimed at developing professional skills for women who are working (or want to work) in leadership positions.

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There are also a number of other significant organizations:

  • New Zealand Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (NZITP) — represents the interests of 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics in New Zealand.
  • Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand (ITENZ) is the country's largest association of private educational institutions — Private Training Establishments (PTEs).
  • Quality Tertiary Institutions (QTI) — founded in 2003, a private association of twelve PTEs complying with the organization’s educational quality standards.
  • English New Zealand is a group of language schools in New Zealand that has been operating since 1986. Those employ teachers exclusively with TESOL qualifications.

Free Universities in New Zealand

There is a program called Fees Free that allows students to study for free, but only New Zealand citizens can participate. Foreign students, in turn, can receive scholarships and grants that fully or partially cover the cost of education. Typically, students with a high enough GPA or other academic merits can apply for financial assistance. Many universities and organizations also evaluate academic essays, motivational letters, and recommendations. A complete list of scholarships available to students from different countries can be found here.

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Interesting facts about New Zealand universities

  • In October 2019 a big scandal broke out at the University of Auckland with a group of students, advocating for white supremacy. Students hung up posters with slogans on the campus, and also actively encouraged other students to join the group. A university representative replied that they certainly did not agree with this position, but could not do anything: those students were protected by the constitutional freedom of speech[4].
  • Lincoln University has a unique collection of insects, numbering about 500,000 exhibits and more than 60 species. This collection is the third-largest in New Zealand, but the only one that is owned by the university.
  • The majestic architecture of the University of Otago is admired not only by locals: British publication The Daily Telegraph[5] and The Huffington Post[6] included the University of Otago in the list of the most beautiful universities in the world.
  • The Library of the University of Auckland consists of nine departments dedicated to various fields. In the General Library, there is a section of specialized literature, which contains unique historical publications and documents, such as the Western Pacific Archives, which have detailed information related to the British colonization effort of New Zealand.
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