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Is my New Zealand qualification a meaningful, recognized qualification?

Students intending to study here can be assured of achieving qualifications of a consistent quality and 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 at state institutions must be approved by a quality assurance body.
All national certificates, diplomas and degrees offered by New Zealand institutions are quality assured to protect your investment in education. It is illegal in New Zealand to use terms like ‘university’, ‘degree’, ‘polytechnic’, ‘national qualification’ unless approved by a government body.
Courses at private training establishments can also be quality assured and those that are will state that they are registered and approved by NZQA.

Where can I study?

New Zealand welcomes international students at all of our institutions.
New Zealand’s immigration laws prevent an international student from studying at a private provider that has not been registered or from taking a course that is not NZQA approved.
New Zealand offers the international student the opportunity to study at high-quality secondary schools as well as undertake a range of qualifications run by quality assured tertiary institutions.

Secondary schools

Secondary schooling is compulsory in New Zealand until the age of 16 years. Most secondary schools are government established but there are some private or integrated schools that have special philosophical or religious traditions. All secondary schools offer national qualifications that are recognized by all New Zealand tertiary organizations.
Examination and assessment in New Zealand secondary schools
Between 2002 to 2004, a new national qualification for senior students, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is being introduced into secondary schools. NZQA administers this system. NCEA level 1 replaced School Certificate in 2002.

What is NCEA?

NCEA is New Zealand’s national qualification for secondary students. It is a mixture of external examination and internal assessment.

  • NCEA Level 1 is broadly equivalent to the English General Certificate of Education (GCE).
  • Level 3 is equivalent to English A Levels and Australia’s Higher School Certificate.
  • The University Entrance award (required for entrance to university by school leavers) is based on NCEA credits. Polytechnics and other tertiary institutions will use NCEA results when enrolling students.

Tertiary Institutions

State Owned
State owned universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and wananga (Maori centres of learning) are institutions that have been set up by the Government and approved by the Minister of Education. They are government funded and market responsive institutions that offer programmes of study and research in demand by both domestic and international students.

New Zealand’s eight universities are part of the international university community. Degree programmes from New Zealand universities are recognised internationally by all leading universities.

There are 23 polytechnics or institutes of technology in New Zealand. Polytechnics have traditionally specialised in vocational training, but that role has expanded over the last decade to meet the needs of learners and the economy. Many are involved in research activities, particularly in applied and technological areas and other degrees.

Colleges of Education
Colleges of education provide programmes required for early childhood, primary and secondary school teaching qualifications. They also provide training for other occupational groups such as social workers. All courses involve supervised on-the-job training for students.

Wananga, Maori centres of tertiary learning, were established as tertiary education institutions in the last decade. These offer advanced study and research programmes where ahuatanga Maori (Maori tradition) and tikanga Maori (Maori custom) are an integral part of the programme. There are three wananga in the public sector.
All of these institutions, universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and wananga, offer a variety of qualifications including degrees that share the same quality assurance status.

Privately owned
As well as state-owned education providers there are approximately 860 private training establishments (PTEs) in New Zealand. These PTE’s are privately owned and funded, although some of their courses attract government funding. They offer a wide variety of courses that lead to qualifications in a large range of vocations from scuba-diving to hospitality to business.

National Qualifications Framework

The National Qualifications Framework is a system of national qualifications available through course work in schools, polytechnics, colleges of education and Wananga and work-based training programmes. It links 800 different qualifications across almost every industry.
Many of the courses international students undertake will be covered by the National Qualifications Framework. The Framework gives students the ability to plan what, where and how to learn and gives them a clear understanding of what skills and knowledge are needed to succeed in their chosen field.
The Framework provides nationally recognized, consistent standards and qualifications, regardless of where learning and assessment are undertaken.
The Framework has received strong endorsement and support from New Zealand’s education and training providers, employers and national industry and professional groups. It is also compatible with similar systems being established in the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Australia and North America.

Who is responsible for the quality of education?

All state-owned institutions enjoy a high degree of academic freedom. They determine their own curricula, appoint staff and determine conditions of service. They select students within limitations on numbers and choose their own programmes of research.
However, to ensure that both the Government and individuals are investing in quality education, training and assessment, the Government has set up nationally recognized processes of quality assurance.
There is a number of government appointed bodies responsible for approving qualifications in New Zealand and for the quality that underpins the delivery of qualifications. These bodies are the:

  • New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA): responsible for approving and registering all courses and national qualifications offered at polytechnics and private training establishments, also responsible for accrediting and registering private training establishments including wananga. In order to offer NZQA approved courses a PTE must be a registered provider with NZQA. NZQA also oversees and administers state secondary school qualifications.
  • New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC): responsible for approving all diplomas, undergraduate and graduate programmes offered by New Zealand universities.
  • ITPNZ – Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand: responsible for overseeing and approving all local qualifications offered at polytechnics.
  • Association of Colleges of Education in New Zealand (ACENZ): responsible for approving and overseeing qualifications offered at Colleges of Education in New Zealand.

All qualifications approved by these organizations will be listed in the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications.


People on short courses
If the course you want to study is a single short course of less than three calendar months duration, and is approved or exempted by NZQA , you do not need a student visa, and can apply for a visitor visa.
If you want to study two or more short courses of study or training (whether at the same time, or one after the other), you need a student visa or permit.

Exchange students
If you have been offered a place in an approved exchange scheme you may apply for a student visa for the duration of your exchange, provided you meet our health and character requirements and are a bona fide exchange participant.
You must also provide evidence that you:

  • have been accepted into an approved student exchange scheme (from the scheme organiser), and
  • have onward travel arrangements for when your exchange scheme has finished.

The requirements for a student visa or permit

Before you apply, ensure that you understand the requirements that you need to meet, and the requirements that your course must meet.

What a student visa or permit allows

Length of stay
You can only stay in New Zealand on a student permit for a limited time.

If you are a full fee-paying student you may be granted a student permit for the period for which you have paid course fees (up to a maximum of four years). If your course is based on the New Zealand academic year, and you’ve paid your fees for the year, we may grant you a student permit that expires on 31 March of the following year.
If you are studying at an education provider with which Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has a Memorandum of Understanding you have the opportunity to apply for a Length of Course permit.
If you are a full scholarship or fees scholarship student you may be granted a student permit for the period of your award (up to a maximum of four years).

Accompanying parents or guardians

If you are enrolled in years 1 to 8 of a school, or you are a student aged 13 or under and enrolled in a private training establishment, your parent or legal guardian must apply for a special visitor’s visa known as a guardian visa. A guardian visa allows your parent or legal guardian to live with and care for you in New Zealand.

However, your parent or legal guardian won’t have to accompany you if you are:

  • a domestic student, or
  • enrolled in a school hostel approved by the Code Administrator at the Ministry of Education, or
  • in years 7 or 8 of a school, or aged 11 to 13 years and enrolled in any other provider which has approval from the Code Administrator at the Ministry of Education.

If you are aged 14 to 17 years (inclusive), or you are enrolling in school years 9 to 13, your parent or legal guardian can apply for a special visitor’s visa – a guardian visa – to live with and care for you in New Zealand, but it is not compulsory.

If you are granted a student permit on the condition that you live with a parent or legal guardian in New Zealand, your permit and your parent or legal guardian’s permit may be revoked if you do not meet this condition. You will then both be required to leave New Zealand.

Part-time study

Ordinarily, you need to be studying full time to be eligible for a student permit. However, we may allow you to study part time on a student permit if you are:

  • coming to New Zealand to study for at least three years and the course requires you to gain practical work experience as part of your study
  • coming to New Zealand to study for a maximum of nine months, your course meets New Zealand’s foreign student policy requirements, you can show us that you have paid the course fees, and you meet our visitor requirements.
  • in the final semester of a course of study in New Zealand, resulting in a New Zealand qualification that would qualify for points under the Skilled Migrant Category.

Working while studying

You can work part time while studying full time, under certain circumstances:

  • to meet course requirements for practical work experience, or
  • during the Christmas and New Year holiday period if you are in a full-time course of study lasting 12 months or longer, and/or
  • for up to 20 hours in any given week during the academic year if you are in full-time study:
  • at a private training establishment or tertiary institution and taking at least two academic years to complete, or
  • culminating in a New Zealand qualification that would qualify for points under the Skilled Migrant Category, or
  • at a secondary school full year course of study in years 12 or 13, provided you have written permission from your school and written consent from your parent, or
  • in a full-time study course lasting at least six months, at a private training establishment or tertiary institution. Your visa or immigration officer has to be satisfied that the main purpose of your course of study is to develop English language skills, and, you have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) overall band score of 5.0 or above (General or Academic Module), or
  • at a tertiary level of at least one academic year duration as part of an approved tertiary student exchange scheme.

In People on visit or work permits who want to study

If you’re here on a visitor or work permit and you want to study full time for longer than three months, you need to apply for a student permit.

If you are here on a visitor or work permit and you want to study part time for longer than three months, you can apply for a Variation of Conditions to your current permit.

You cannot undertake that study before we grant you a student permit.

Partners and children of students

If your partner or children want to come to New Zealand with you, they will need to apply for a visitor visa, or if they will also be studying, their own student visa.

Medical insurance

You must have appropriate and current medical and travel insurance while you’re studying in New Zealand (a requirement of the Ministry of Education’s Code of Practice).

Student permit holders are generally not eligible for publicly funded health and disability services. People covered by New Zealand’s reciprocal health agreements with Australia and United Kingdom are entitled to publicly funded health care for immediately necessary medical treatment only.

Who cannot get a student visa/permit

Most people can be considered for a visa or permit to study in New Zealand. However, to protect the interests of New Zealanders we do not issue visas to people who don’t meet certain requirements, or who are involved in certain activities.

If an immigration of visa officer believes you have not made a genuine application for a visa or permit, or that you do not intend to meet the conditions of the visa or permit, we will not issue it to you.

You can be refused a visa or permit if:

  • you are not eligible for a visa or permit under section 7(1) of the Immigration Act 1987,
  • you are in New Zealand unlawfully when you apply,
  • you do not meet our health or character requirements, or
  • we believe you are likely to stay in New Zealand unlawfully or you would break the conditions of your visa or permit.

Limited purpose visas

If we are unsure whether you will meet the requirements of your visa, you may need to apply for a limited purpose visa.

NZAID students

We have a different policy for NZAID-supported students (or the partners or dependent children of NZAID-supported students). You will need written approval from NZAID if you want a visa or permit for New Zealand in the two-year period after the end of the NZAID student’s scholarship.

This policy does not apply to any work visas or permits that we give you to complete your course requirements or to any short-term visitor visas or permits.

If you are not sure whether these conditions apply to you, see our examples of eligibility, or, to see the wording of the policy, go to the Operations Manual.

Why we would revoke a student permit

If you fail to meet our conditions of studying in New Zealand we may revoke your student permit. We will do this if:

  • you do not attend your course
  • you work outside our restrictions
  • you stop attending the course for which you were granted the permit and enrol in one we have not approved. You may be able to change courses or providers once you are here but you must first contact us so that we can either change your permit conditions or consider your application for a new student permit
  • your NZAID funding stops, or
  • you are required to live with your parent or legal guardian and you do not live with your parent or legal guardian. Your parent or legal guardian’s permit may also be revoked in this case.

Once your permit is revoked you will no longer be lawfully in New Zealand and will have to leave.
Partners and children of New Zealand residents and visa holders
If your partner or parent is in New Zealand and you want to join them here and study, your permit conditions may depend on factors such as your partner or parent’s immigration status.