Education System

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.

Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. 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.

School Education

Most schools cater for primary, intermediate, secondary school students

  • Years 1−6: Primary School (Ages 5−10)

  • Years 7−8: Intermediate School (Ages 11−12)

  • Years 9−13: Secondary School (Ages 13−18)

Tertiary Education

There are eight government-funded universities providing undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs in academic and professional studies. All universities offer degrees in a broad range of subjects like commerce, science and arts etc. Universities also have specialist subjects such as Engineering, Computer Science, Medicine and Agriculture.


The quality of a New Zealand university education is well recognized internationally. Many New Zealand graduates have gone on to achieve international recognition in their field.

Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology

There are 23 government-funded polytechnics and institutes of technology in New Zealand. Programs offered in these institutions can be both academically and vocationally focused. Some institutions offer Year 1 of a degree program, with subsequent years being completed at a university.

Private Tertiary and Training Establishments

There are a growing number of private tertiary and training providers offering an alternative study option. They offer a range of programs including professional certificates, diplomas and degrees in a diverse range of subjects including art, the hospitality industry, computer studies, secretarial studies, quality management, ecotourism and others.

New Zealand National Qualifications Framework (NQF)s

The NQF is made up of nationally endorsed standards and qualifications. NQF standards and qualifications are developed by nationally recognized standard setting bodies (SSBs) and quality assured by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

All Qualifications within NQF are divided into levels based on complexity of the skills and knowledge imparted. The levels do not equate to 'years spent learning' but reflect the content of the qualification. The following qualifications are available on the NQF:

Level Qualification Types
10 Doctoral Degree
9 Masters Degree
8 Post graduate Diplomas & Certificates Bachelors Honour's Degree
7 Bachelors Degree Graduate Diplomas & Certificates
6 Diplomas
5 Diplomas
4 Diplomas
3 Certificates
2 Certificates
1 Certificates