New Zealand’s school system

New Zealand’s education system is very similar to the system found in the UK and studies in recent years have regularly placed the country in the top ten worldwide for the quality of the education available at all levels. As an Expat you will have to enrol any children you may have into a local school, a useful website for this is:

Compulsory education covers the ages between 5 and 16 and it is free, although most children will begin school either on their 5th birthday or on the first real school day afterwards, many choose to stay on until they are 18.

Most schools and colleges have an academic year which runs from January until the middle of December while the university school year will run from the end of February until the middle of November. New Zealand has three types of school in operation. State education is funded by the authorities, private education and integrated schools, which are also funded by the authorities. Private schools do receive some funding from the authorities but charge tuition fees to make up the operating costs. Integrated schools are those which used to be private but have been absorbed into the state system. Those who choose to study from years 11 to 13 will study for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

Students who plan to attend university in New Zealand can usually obtain a bachelor’s degree in 3 years, although an honours qualification can take an extra year. Some universities offer 4 year degrees as well. Degrees are usually classified as first, upper second class, lower second class or third class, as they are in the UK. Further study can be undertaken in the form of a Master’s degree or a PhD. Most universities have an ‘open’ policy where students can enrol if they simply meet the minimum level of the final school examinations.

University fees for students from New Zealand are subsidised by the state and there is a student loan system for the fees that need to be paid by the student. There are other allowances available for living expenses. Students that do not meet the ‘domestic’ criteria are classed as international and need to pay full fees.

The vast majority of classes are taught through the medium of English although there are some Maori classes where this is the only language used. Children of expats will need to have a good understanding of the English language before they will be admitted to classes. Students will have their ability assessed in most subjects and will be placed in classes according to their knowledge.

Kiwi Universities

There are eight universities in New Zealand and this section will give a brief outline of them.

All universities offer a wide choice of courses, although each tends to have certain specialities in which it’s regarded as a ‘centre of excellence’. For example, the University of Otago specialises in dentistry, home science, medicine, pharmacy, physical education (PE) and surveying, and Lincoln University specialises in agriculture and horticulture.

The University of Auckland specialises in architecture, art, engineering, medicine, optometry and planning, and the University of Canterbury in engineering, fine art and forestry.

Victoria University is the main institution for public administration and social work, whereas Massey University is noted for agriculture and horticulture, and also produces most of New Zealand’s veterinary surgeons.

The University of Waikato specialises in arts, computing and mathematics, education, engineering, law, and Maori and Pacific studies, while it would be an insult to the intelligence of readers to explain what Auckland University of Technology concentrates on.

No university is regarded as better as or worse than any other, although a degree in a subject from a university that’s a centre of excellence in that subject is more highly valued than a degree from a university which isn’t. Auckland is the largest university in terms of student numbers and offers the widest range of courses. It’s also more cosmopolitan, whereas the others, both geographically and intellectually, are more provincial.

Each university organises its own admissions and most distribute an enrolment pack in the first week of September and applications must be submitted by the end of the first week of December. The university and polytechnic academic year runs from February until November.