If you are considering relocating to New Zealand to study or are interested in finding out more about university options as an expat, you will need to know how the system works, what funding may be available and what institutions there are to choose from.

New Zealand has a number of universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and Wananga (Maori centres of learning), which are state funded and offer courses that are approved by the Minster of Education. They are open to domestic and international students who meet their entry criteria. There are also a number of privately owned institutions offering a wide range of largely vocational courses.

New Zealand’s Universities

New Zealand has a total of eight universities in diverse locations across the country, all of which enjoy a strong reputation. All eight institutions are ranked among the top 550 universities worldwide:

UniversityWorld rankingLocation
University of Auckland92Auckland
University of Otago159Dunedin
University of Canterbury242Canterbury
Victoria University of Wellington275Wellington
Massey University3463 campuses, Albany (Auckland), Wellington, Palmerston North
University of WakatoTop 550Hamilton
Lincoln UniversityTop 550Lincoln
Auckland University of TechnologyTop 550Auckland

Established in 1883, the University of Auckland is New Zealand’s leading institution. With over 40,000 students on the roll, it comprises eight faculties and six campuses located in and around Auckland, making it a popular choice for those wishing to study in a lively and sophisticated urban setting.

Based in South Island’s second-largest city, the University of Otago is the country’s oldest university and boasts 20,000 students on the roll, divided into four faculties specialising in business, health sciences, humanities and sciences.

For those wishing to study in Canterbury, the University of Canterbury educates some 15,000 students each year in a wide range of subjects ranging from the arts, music and law to commerce, engineering and science. Further specialisms include sports coaching, teaching and language pathology.

The bustling capital of Wellington offers a dynamic and creative environment in which to study, and the city’s university is a popular choice for more than 20,000 students each year. It offers a wide range of courses and has a particular reputation for its strength in the subjects of law, humanities and sciences.

Massey University is located across three campuses on North Island and also provides a wide range of distance-learning options. Indeed, almost half of its 35,000 students study via this method.

Although less high profile, the Universities of Waikato, University of Lincoln and Auckland University of Technology also offer high-quality courses in a range of arts, sciences, humanities and commerce-based courses. Degrees from any of New Zealand’s eight universities are recognised by all leading institutions worldwide.

Required qualifications for New Zealand universities

If you are applying to a New Zealand university from abroad, you will be classed as an international student. You will be expected to have completed your secondary education to a level equivalent to the New Zealand university standard.

This would include Year 12 to an acceptable level if applying from Australia; CEGEP including English with 60% overall average if applying from Canada; VWO if applying from the Netherlands; one year of successful university study if applying from Indonesia; STPM with 3 Principal passes if applying from Malaysia; Form Seven Certificate with 3 or more B grades plus a grade 5+ in PSSC if applying from the South Pacific Countries; 3 A levels including at least 1 C grade or better if applying from the UK; or a High School Diploma plus acceptable SAT score if applying from the USA. The International Baccalaureate is also accepted, for which a complete diploma of 24 points is required.

How much will it cost?

Average annual fees for domestic undergraduates range from $5,500 to $8,000 rising to over $14,000 for medicine. Postgraduate fees range from $7,000 to $9,500 while a MBA will cost between $16,500 and $27,000. Fees vary between institutions so do check for up-to-date information on each university’s website for definitive costs.

If you are applying from overseas, you will be classed as an international student, for whom fees are significantly higher. Expect to pay between $25,000 and $35,000 per year, rising to over $60,000 for medicine.

There are limited scholarships available to international students via the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan, the New Zealand Aid ProgrammeEducation New Zealand and direct from the universities themselves. With educational costs in New Zealand rising, it is worth exploring alternative funding options in order to ease your path through higher education.

Becoming an international student

If you are planning to relocate to New Zealand to study, you may apply for a student visa in order to do so. Depending on the type of visa you obtain, you may have the right to work during your time of study. If you do not, however, you will need to budget for your living and educational costs for the duration of your course. In any case, you will be expected to demonstrate on your visa application that you have sufficient funds at your disposal to see you through the duration of your course.

Other higher education options

If you are interested in pursuing a more vocational qualification, New Zealand boasts 23 polytechnics, a number of further education colleges, six dedicated teacher-training institutions and more than 850 privately owned colleges offering qualifications in a wide range of vocational subjects.

To find out more about studying at university in New Zealand, visit the New Zealand Vice Chancellors’ Committee website for a wealth of up-to-date information.