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Education in New Zealand

About New Zealand 

New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some 1,500 kilometers (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly 1,000 kilometers (600 mi) south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long isolation New Zealand developed a distinctive fauna dominated by birds, many of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and introduced mammals. With a mild maritime climate, the land was mostly covered in forest. The country’s varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks owe much to the uplift of land and volcanic eruptions caused by the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates clashing underfoot.

Polynesians settled New Zealand in 1250–1300 AD and developed a distinctive Māori culture, and Europeans first made contact in 1642 AD. The introduction of potatoes and muskets triggered upheaval among Māori early during the 19th century, which led to the inter-tribal Musket Wars. In 1840 the British and Māori signed a treaty making New Zealand a colony of the British Empire. Immigrant numbers increased sharply and conflicts escalated into the New Zealand Wars, which resulted in much Māori land being confiscated in the mid North Island. Economic depressions were followed by periods of political reform, with women gaining the vote during the 1890s, and a welfare state being established from the 1930s. After World War II, New Zealand joined Australia and the United States in the ANZUS security treaty, although the United States later suspended the treaty after New Zealand banned nuclear weapons. New Zealanders enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world in the 1950s, but the 1970s saw a deep recession, worsened by oil shocks and the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Economic Community. The country underwent major economic changes during the 1980s, which transformed it from a protectionist to a liberalised free-trade economy. Markets for New Zealand’s agricultural exports have diversified greatly since the 1970s, with once-dominant exports of wool being overtaken by dairy products, meat, and recently wine.

The majority of New Zealand’s population is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and non-Māori Polynesians. Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages, with English predominant. Much of New Zealand’s culture is derived from Māori and early British settlers. Early European art was dominated by landscapes and to a lesser extent portraits of Māori. A recent resurgence of Māori culture has seen their traditional arts of carving, weaving and tattooing become more main stream. Many artists now combine Māori and Western techniques to create unique art forms. The country’s culture has also been broadened by globalisation and increased immigration from the Pacific Islands and Asia. New Zealand’s diverse landscape provides many opportunities for outdoor pursuits and has provided the backdrop for a number of big budget movies.

Why Study in New Zealand

Educational institutions in New Zealand offer a wide variety of courses and New Zealand welcomes international students at all of its institutions. Students intending to study in New Zealand can be assured of achieving qualifications that are at a standard comparable to qualifications achieved in leading educational institutions in other parts of the world.

The New Zealand Government has put in place strong national quality assurance systems, designed to help institutions maintain the quality and consistency of training and assessment programmes. All courses, programmes and qualifications offered by registered providers must be approved by a quality assurance body. Education providers (such as English language schools) that are not registered with NZQA cannot offer you an officially recognised course. New Zealand Immigration will not issue a permit unless you are planning to do an approved course.

If you’re an international student, your provider must be a signatory to the Ministry of Education’s Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students. The Code sets out the minimum standards of advice and care that are expected of providers who enroll international students. The Code applies to care and welfare of students only, and not to academic standards.

The New Zealand tertiary sector covers private training establishments (PTEs), institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), wananga, universities and workplace training.

These all deliver a variety of educational options, often in flexible ways to meet the needs of adult learners. NZQA acts as a quality assurance body and approves all qualifications for the above institutions, apart from universities.

Tertiary education providers offer courses which range from transition (school to work) programmers, through to postgraduate study and research. There are no fixed divisions between the types of courses offered by each sort of provider. The focus is on their ability to offer education to the required quality standards, rather than based on their type.

Higher, degree-level education is mainly offered at universities. Programmers are research-led and generally academic, as distinct from vocational.

Vocational degree level education is offered at ITPs, wänanga and a few larger PTEs. Such degrees tend to be specific and applied.

PTEs’ programmes are mostly in specific vocational niches at certificate and diploma level.

For more information see Choosing a tertiary course and Choosing an educational provider.

In New Zealand we recognise that you may already have skills and knowledge from previous study or through your experience in the workplace, self-study or through life itself. For some qualifications this is able to be recognised, see Prior learning and credit transfer for more information.

Education System in New Zealand

Education in New Zealand follows the three-tier model which includes primary schools, followed by secondary schools (high schools) and tertiary education at universities and/or polytechnics.

The Programme for International Student Assessment ranks New Zealand’s education as the 7th best in the world. The Education Index, published with the UN’s Human Development Index in 2008, based on data from 2006, lists New Zealand as 0.993, amongst the highest in the world, tied for first with Denmark, Finland and Australia.

Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, although in very special cases an exemption can be gained after applying to the MOE. These may be granted to students who are close to 16, have been experiencing some ongoing difficulty at school and have a job already lined up. Families wishing to home educate their children can apply for exemption. To get an exemption from enrollment at a registered school, they must satisfy the Secretary of Education that their child will be taught “as regularly and as well as in a registered school”.

Children almost always start school on their 5th birthday, or the first School Day after it. Post-compulsory education is regulated within the New Zealand National Qualifications Framework, a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training.

The academic year in New Zealand varies between institutions, but generally runs from late January until mid-December for primary and secondary schools and polytechnics, and from late February until mid-November for universities.

Typically, a bachelor’s degree will take three years, and a further year of study will lead to an Honours degree. Not every degree follows this 3+1 pattern: there are some four year degrees (which may or may not be awarded with Honours), and some specialist bachelor’s degrees which take longer to complete. Typically, Honours 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 may be followed by a Master’s degree. A candidate who does not hold an Honours degree may be awarded a Master’s degree with honours: such a degree usually involves two years study, compared to one year for a Master’s degree for a candidate who does have an Honours degree. A candidate who has either a Master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with Honours may proceed to a doctoral degree.

Entry to most universities was previously “open”, that is to say that one only needed to meet the minimum requirements in the school-leaving examinations (be it NCEA or Bursary). However, most courses at New Zealand universities now have selective admissions, where candidates have to fulfill additional requirements through their qualifications, notably with the University of Auckland offering the largest number of selective-entry courses. Mature students usually do not need to meet the academic criteria demanded of students who enter directly from secondary school.

Domestic students will pay fees subsidised by the Government, and the student-paid portion of the fee can be loaned from the Government under the Government’s Student Loan Scheme. Weekly stipends can be drawn from the loan for living expenses, or the student can apply for a needs based (on assessment of parental income) “Student Allowance”, which does not need to be paid back. “Bonded Merit Scholarships” are also provided by the Government to cover the student-paid portion of fees, however, receipt of the Scholarship requires the recipient to stay in New Zealand for a certain time after graduation (Cancelled as of 2009). The New Zealand Scholarship and the New Zealand University Bursary are awarded to school leavers by a competitive examination and also provide financial support to school-leavers pursuing a university degree but do not entail any requirement to stay in the country after they finish university. International students pay full (non-subsidised) fees and are not eligible for Government financial assistance.

Work after Study

Requirements under the Study to Work category

If you are studying in New Zealand and you want to stay and work here after you have completed your studies, you may be eligible for a work visa under our Study to Work category.

All applicants need to meet our health and character requirements. The other requirements you need to meet depend on whether you have a job offer.

Students with a job offer

If you are a student with an offer of employment relevant to your qualification, you may be eligible for a work visa and for a maximum period of:

  • two years; or
  • three years, if you are working towards obtaining a membership or registration from a New Zealand professional association which requires more than two years of relevant practical work experience.

You will need to provide evidence that:

  • you have a job offer that is relevant to your qualification, and
  • you have successfully completed a qualification in New Zealand that would qualify for points under the Skilled Migrant Category of our Residence policy.

If you are applying for a three-year work visa because you are working towards obtaining a membership or registration from a New Zealand professional association (such as the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants or the New Zealand Registered Architects Board), you need to provide us with more evidence.

  • You must show that you need membership or registration to fully perform your professional duties.
  • You must show that the employment is considered relevant practical experience by the professional association. Evidence might include documentation from the professional association, or from the employer, which says how the employment meets the association’s requirements.
  • You must show that your New Zealand qualification meets the requirements for registration or membership of the professional association.

Your application for a work visa must be made no later than three months after the end date of your student visa for that course or qualification, unless you hold a Graduate Job Search Work Visa.

We will apply conditions to your Work Visa that relate to your practical experience.

Students without a job offer

If you are a student who has completed a qualification in New Zealand, but you do not have a job offer, you may be eligible for a Graduate Job Search Work Visa for a maximum of 12 months. Then, when you have found a job, you can apply for a further visa for up to two or three years under the Study to Work category.

To be eligible for a Graduate Work Search Visa you must:

  • have successfully completed a qualification in New Zealand that would qualify for points under the Skilled Migrant Category
  • apply no later than three months after the end date of the student visa for that qualification
  • provide evidence of a minimum of NZ$2,100 available to maintain yourself during your 12-month stay in New Zealand (we will accept traveller’s cheques or bank documents in your name).

These instructions do not apply to holders of Limited Visas.

Students who have obtained a National Certificate, National Diploma, New Zealand Diploma or a New Zealand Institute of Management qualification

Please note that some students who have studied a National Certificate, National Diploma, New Zealand Diploma or a New Zealand Institute of Management qualification have been providing the incorrect qualification certificates with their applications.

  • The New Zealand Diploma in Business (correct qualification certificate = NZQA certificate)
  • All National Diplomas, at all levels (correct qualification certificate = NZQA certificate)
  • All National Certificates (correct qualification certificate = NZQA certificate)
  • The New Zealand Institute of Management Diplomas (correct qualification certificate = New Zealand Institute of Management certificate).

Please talk to your education provider in the first instance, if you have qualified for this award then your provider can apply to NZQA/NZIM for your certificate.

INZ will be asking to see the correct qualification certificate, so to avoid any delays, please provide the correct one.

Brian Burns Jersey