New Zealand Education System Overview

An overview of the governance and structure of education in New Zealand, including information on quality assurance and the international comparability of New Zealand secondary school and tertiary education qualifications.

Tertiary Education

Tertiary education includes all post-secondary education including higher and vocational education. It is the third level of education and is delivered by both state and privately owned institutions.

Tertiary education institutions offer courses which range from transition (school to work) programmes, through to postgraduate study and research. There are no fixed divisions between the types of courses offered by providers. The focus is on their ability to offer education to the required quality standards, rather than based on their type.

The academic year for most tertiary institutions starts in February and finishes in November. It is most often divided into two semesters but a third, ‘summer’, semester is becoming increasingly popular.

Government partly funds state tertiary institutions. Students need to contribute about 30 per cent of the cost of their courses. New Zealand students can borrow a student loan from the government to pay for their courses until they are earning.

The Government states its priorities for tertiary education in its Tertiary Education Strategy. The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) funds tertiary providers based on agreed enrolments and contestable grants. The emphasis is on working in partnership to develop investment plans focused on educational outcomes and how they can be achieved. Agreed investment plans are then funded accordingly and the TEC monitors providers against the stated outcomes. Investment plans take into account student demand, labour market conditions, advice from employers about skills they need, and government policies and priorities.

All providers operate in an environment of decentralised governance and management. To ensure the most effective use of its funding, government encourages sector cooperation.

Content last updated: 21 May 2015