Higher Education in New Zealand


New Zealand has traditionally been a popular country of study for Malaysians. In 2016 more than 2,000 Malaysian students studied at secondary and tertiary institutions in New Zealand. New Zealand is one of the safest and friendliest places you can choose for your studies. In 2017, we were named the world’s second most peaceful country by the Global Peace Index, and in 2016, the world’s least corrupt country by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

The Life & The People

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy, offering a safe political environment for international students and visitors. It has a population of 4.5 million and is primarily a European culture which has absorbed many of the rich and historic cultural elements from the Maori and Pacific Island heritage, and now form its multi-cultural and rapidly growing immigrant communities.

The capital of New Zealand is Wellington situated at the southern tip of the North Island.


Situated in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand’s seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The climate is temperate with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

Summer   :       December – February
Autumn    :       March – May
Winter      :       June – August
Spring      :       September – November


New Zealand has a wide range of indigenous and imported food. It is a major producer of grass-fed lamb, venison and beef, and dairy products are abundant and inexpensive. Almost all types of fruit are available in the shops. New Zealanders generally have a balanced diet of vegetables with either meat or fish as their main meal. Dinner is usually considered to be the main meal.

New Zealand cities and towns have excellent public water supplies; in all cases tap water is fresh and safe to drink.


Electrical appliances would need to be adapted to the New Zealand voltage of 230 volts, 50 hertz.


New Zealand has two main international airports, Auckland and Christchurch. Distances between major places of interest in New Zealand are short and there is a good transport network. This makes independent travel in the country easy.

Just about every town and city in New Zealand is linked to a network of coach and rail services operated by InterCity, Mount Cook, Newmans, or Transrail. Modern ferries operating between Wellington and Picton link the North and South Islands, carrying passengers and vehicles using a drive-on/drive-off service.

Sporting and Recreational Facilities

New Zealanders love sports and recreation and facilities are inexpensive and readily available. There are many outdoors sports to choose from such as skiing, golfing, water sports, surfing, field sports (soccer, rugby and cricket) and specialised recreations such as hang gliding, scuba diving and mountaineering. Ready access to gymnasiums and enclosed health training venues provide opportunity for indoor sports.

New Zealand has many beautiful beaches, rivers, and National Parks, creating a truly diverse environment for international students.


Formal education in New Zealand comprises 8 years primary education and 5 years secondary education. Year 13 in New Zealand is considered equivalent to Malaysia’s Upper 6th Form. New Zealand has over 400 secondary schools, both state and private (also referred to as high schools, grammar schools and colleges). Some secondary schools provide on-site boarding facilities.

Higher education courses are available for academic, professional and vocational studies at universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, secondary schools and private training establishments.

There are 8 state-funded universities in New Zealand. University education in New Zealand is similar to the British system. In addition, there are 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) providing education and training in a broad range of industry and occupation- based vocational studies as well as tertiary qualifications.

Private Tertiary Establishments provide a wide range of tertiary and vocational courses. Short-term English language courses are taught using modern teaching methods, including laboratory work and conversational classes. Many polytechnics, institutes of technology and universities also offer English language training. Students are advised to enrol in courses approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority for which the issuing of student visas has been approved.

Tertiary Education

All universities offer a broad range of subjects in arts, social science, science and commerce. Most universities specialise in certain fields. The University of Otago provides courses in health science such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and physiotherapy; University of Canterbury in forestry, engineering and fine arts; Lincoln University in subjects related to agriculture, horticulture and specialized commerce courses; University of Auckland in architecture, planning, engineering, medicine, optometry and fine arts; Victoria University of Wellington in architecture, public administration and social works; Massey University in agriculture, horticulture, food technology, aviation, business studies and veterinary science; University of Waikato in business studies, law and education; Auckland University of Technology in communication studies and graphic design.

There are specialised teacher training institutions in New Zealand. They are mostly called Colleges of Education. The Colleges of Education work closely with the universities and students can complete their training and gain a degree through study at the College of Education and the local university.

Most Bachelor’s degree courses require 3 to 4 years but some may take up to 5 years to complete. In some faculties a Bachelor’s Honours degree is conferred after an additional year of undergraduate study.

Most of the universities and ITPs operate on a semester system, with courses starting in February and July.

Terms’ duration:
Jan. –   March
April – June
July –  Sept.
Oct. –   Dec.

Semesters’ duration:
March – June,
July –  Nov.

On the other hand, ITPs programmes range from introductory studies to full degree programmes. Disciplines cover areas such as business, science, art, architecture, health, trades, languages, design and social sciences and within each discipline hundreds of different subjects.

New Zealand universities work closely with the ITPs so that many of the qualifications gained at an ITP can be transferred as credits towards university degrees. Many ITPs also offer their own degrees in specific areas such as architecture, accounting, business, design, technology, commerce and communication or conjoint degrees with New Zealand universities. This means students can do the first and in some cases the second year of a New Zealand university degree in an ITP.

Secondary Education

Students commence secondary education (Years 9 to 13) in New Zealand at approximately 13 years of age.

New Zealand secondary schools are almost all state schools, established and funded by the New Zealand government through the Ministry of Education. These schools are broadly similar in type and facilities. Most are co-educational, but about 10% are single sex boys’ or girls’ schools. There are a small number of private (independent) secondary schools outside of the state system. These schools are generally affiliated to religious organisations. A number of former private schools have become integrated with the state system and are known as state integrated schools. These schools receive Government funding but they have kept their special philosophical or religious features (e.g. Catholic schools teach Catholic doctrine).

The curricula and educational standards of the state and private schools are similar and all prepare students for the same national qualifications. International students are accepted at both state and private secondary schools.

At the end of Year 11, most students sit the first level of a three stage public examinations, the National Certificate of Education Achievements (NCEA). NCEA is a combination of internal assessment and examination. Students sit NCEA Level 2 in Year 12 and NCEA Level 3 in Year 13.

The NCEA Level 3 Examination sat in Year 13 is the recognised ITPs, college of education and university entrance to a New Zealand degree programme.



General Academic Requirements For Malaysian Students

Three passes in STPM/GCE ‘A’ Level/South Australian Matriculation/Canadian Grade 13 with one C or better, or a maximum score of 15 points over 6 academic subjects in the Unified Examination Certificate.

General Academic Requirements For Other Students

China Senior High School graduation plus successful completion of one year bachelors level study from a recognised institution; or successful completion of a two year diploma, or at least two years out of a three year diploma from a recognised institution; or completed Gaokao with a tier one score from the related province.
Hong Kong Hong Kong Advanced Level passes in 3 academic subjects with 1 grade

C or higher; or the Hong Kong Diploma in Secondary Education with at

least 3 subjects achieved at Level 4 or better, including English language

& 2 elective subjects.

Indonesia One year’s successful study at an internationally recognised Indonesian

university, or, have achieved SMU/ SMA with a minimum GPA of 8.5.

Singapore A minimum of 3 H2 passes at C grade, or successful completion of NUS

High School Diploma.

Thailand Matayom 6 Certificate with a GPA above 3.0 with one year of study from

a recognised institution.

Vietnam Upper Senior Secondary graduation with a Grade 6 average plus

successful completion of one year’s tertiary study at an internationally

recognised tertiary institution.

English Language Requirements

TOEFL (paper based) 550 plus TWE of 4.5 or better, TOEFL (internet based) 80 plus writing score of at least 19 or IELTS 6.0 with all band of 6.0.

Students may also enrol at secondary schools in New Zealand for year 12 and 13 (aged 16 – 18) and then further their education at tertiary educational institutions. Alternatively, foundation studies offered by the universities can be used as entry into tertiary education.

Institute of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs)

Entry to ITPs can be at a number of different levels with students entering straight from secondary school or in later years, after a period of employment. Generally, degree programmes require matriculation equivalent or a pre-degree course at an ITP or relevant work experience. Other programmes may only require a minimum of three or four years of secondary schooling.

Secondary Schools

Each secondary school sets its own entry criteria (academic and English language ability) for international students. For example, while some secondary schools require a reasonable standard of English ability prior to entering a course, others will accept international students with a lower level of English if they have the ability to provide the student with intensive English as a Second Language (ESOL) course.



The New Zealand currency is composed of dollars and cents.

Most overseas currencies are accepted and easily exchanged in New Zealand banks and Exchange Centres. To pay for tuition and other fees, international students can send bank drafts through their local bank to New Zealand banks or directly to New Zealand institutions where they intend to study.

Overseas credit cards such as Visa, American Express, Bankcard, Mastercard, Diners Club and JCB are accepted in most places. The international direct debit systems “Cirrus” and “Plus” are also widely used.


All cities and towns have banks. Twenty-four hour automatic teller machines (ATMs) are to be found in all cities. Often, there are ATMs or banks located near your school. Trading banks are open 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday through Friday. To open a bank account is easy and students who intend to study for more than three months are advised to open a bank account and deposit money in it before coming to New Zealand as this is required by New Zealand law.

Tuition Fees at Universities

The following table provides a general guide to the tuition fees for popular courses at universities:

Subjects         Undergraduate Courses (NZ$ per year)
Agriculture/ Horticulture $29,000 and above
Arts/ Humanities/ Social Sciences $23.900 and above
Commerce/ Business Administration $25,900 and above
Engineering $32.300 and above
Law $27,200 and above
Science $24,300 – $32,400

Tuition Fees at Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs)

The following table provides a general guide to tuition fees for long term courses at ITPs:

Subject Tuition fees (NZ$ per year)
Arts $17,900 and above
Commerce $17,500 and above
Health Studies $19,000 and above
Engineering/ Technology $19,300 and above
Science $18,500 and above

Tuition Fees at Secondary Education

As a general guide, tuition fees at secondary schools range from NZ$10,000 to NZ$38,800 per year.

Living Expenses

It is about NZ$15,000-NZ$27,000 per year including food, clothing, transport, entertainment and accommodation costs.

Halls of Residence/Student Hostels are usually located on the institution campus. The costs range from NZ$170 to NZ$385 per week which includes food. Students may choose to stay in apartments/flats which cost from NZ$150 to NZ$250 per week plus food. Some students may opt for home stay living with a New Zealand family. In this way, one will be treated as a member of the family and be provided with breakfast and dinner, and in the weekends lunch will also be offered. The cost ranges from NZ$250  per week onwards.

Health Care

Students must have medical and travel insurance policy while they are studying in New Zealand. They must maintain their policies from the time they enrol until their visa expire.


Admission  to tertiary education institutions is generally in February/March, but most of them now operate on a two semester basis so many courses are also available for commencement in July.

To apply to study in New Zealand, one can apply directly to the institutions or local agents and representatives. Each university has established its own academic entry criteria which vary according to the course of study and its availability.

Applications must be accompanied by supporting documentation including education records, transcripts, testimonials, and evidence of English Language ability (TOEFL or IELTS).


The fastest and easiest way to apply for a student visa is online. To apply online, go to


If you’re travelling with your partner or you’re a dependent child coming with a parent or guardian, you should use the paper form instead. Application forms and guides are available at above website. Complete the Student Visa Form and submit application together with a recent passport-sized photograph, payment of non-refundable visa application fee, an ‘offer of place’ from a New Zealand educational institution which states the acceptance, the minimum time to complete the course, whether a course fee is required to be paid or student is exempt from the fee (e.g. scholarship student), evidence of payment of course tuition fee, a guarantee of accommodation, evidence of sufficient funds to cover the living expenses and return travel to the home country, medical clearance and character references.


If you have a Student Visa, you may be able to work part-time, up to 20 hours per week, and full-time during scheduled holidays. Check your visa – it will show if and when you are allowed to work while you are studying in New Zealand. For more information on who may work while studying, refer to the above Immigration New Zealand Website


New Zealand education institutions offer specialised student welfare and support services. These services are available to students who may have encountered problems or are facing difficulties. Often specially trained counsellors or designated staff members will be available to help.

For international students entering secondary schools, in some cases, institutions can arrange for guardians who usually speak the native language of the students. Most secondary schools will also arrange for a representative to meet international students at the airport and take them to their accommodation.

Code of Practice for Pastoral Care of International Students

New Zealand education providers that accept international students must abide by the Code of Practice for Pastoral Care for International Students. New Zealand educational providers have an important responsibility for international students’ welfare. The Code is a document which provides a framework for service delivery by educational providers and their agents to international students. The Code sets out the minimum standards of advice and care that are expected of educational providers with respect to international students.

Links and Contacts

For further information, refer to the following website: https://www.studyinnewzealand.govt.nz/

Education New Zealand
New Zealand High Commission
21st Floor, Menara IMC,
No 8 Jalan Sultan Ismail,
50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel.:  +603-2078 4612


Updated by:
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, Nov. 2018

Information verified by:
Education New Zealand, Malaysia.

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