In 1987 the then Government, the Labour Party, led by David Lange as Prime Minister and self-appointed Minister of Education, named a task force to review education and its administration. Since then nearly every aspect of the administration of education in New Zealand has been reviewed. The task force found that structures that had been in place for over a hundred years were in need of extensive reform as they were too centralised and too complex.

The basic aim of these reforms was to improve the quality of education for all New Zealanders, and their recommendations were that education should be based on choice, giving a range of options to both pupils and the institutions that provide education. The wishes and aims of parents and those in any education community needed to be recognised, and education needed to be culturally sensitive and provide equal opportunities and to practise good management.


The most significant changes were in the administration of primary and secondary schools, in partnership with teachers. Previously, this had been the responsibility of education boards and the regional offices of the Department of Education. This responsibility was now decentralised to boards of trustees of individual schools who became accountable for meeting the objectives of their charter (an agreement between the school and the Minister of Education). Expenditure was made from bulk grants received from Government to run education institutions. The boards of trustees are now required to report to the Education Review Office, which reviews how well schools are meeting the objectives of their charter. The Education Review Office in turn reports directly to the Minister of Education.

Starting age

Most New Zealand students start their education at the age of five years, despite the legal starting age of six years. In 1990 100% of five-year-olds were in fact enrolled at primary school.

It will help your child integrate into the new school if you as parents make an effort to become involved. School camps, for example, take place in the summer months. The children, teachers and helpers spend 3-4 days away together at a camp, sometimes in the bush, in a relaxed situation, learning new skills. Parents are always needed to help out, in the kitchens preparing food, and also being involved in the various activities. It gives a greater understanding of the different roles the teacher is required to play.

Consider joining your own School Board of Trustees, and become involved with the committees when asked. There is no better way for you and your family to become familiar with the new lifestyle. I found that I made most of my friends from amongst the other parents I met at socials organised by the School Parent Teacher Association, and they still remain friends even though our families are now grown up.

The school curriculum


In primary and intermediate schools the curriculum subjects cover oral and written language, reading, writing and spelling, mathematics, social studies, science, art and craft, physical and health education and music.

Intermediate school

At intermediate school the curriculum covers (in addition to the primary school curriculum) the skills of woodwork, metalwork, cooking and sewing.

Junior classes

The first three years of the child's education is spent in junior classes (Junior 1-3). Promotion is by age through the Standards 1-4 classes, and continues through Forms One and Two.

Secondary schools

Most secondary schools cater for students from Form Three to Form Seven, with average ages ranging from 13-18 years. Attendance is now compulsory until the age of 16, and education is provided free to the age of 19 years. The core curriculum subjects for secondary schools for Form Three to Form Four are language, social studies, mathematics, general science, health and physical education, music, art and craft, home economics. Optional subjects may include economics, history, geography, French, Japanese and German. At Form Five to Form Seven levels, students have a wide range of subjects to choose from.

Old school tie

The old school tie attitude is still alive and well in some New Zealand private schools, despite the protests from those whose education was gained at the expense of the state system.

Private schools

Most of the private schools in New Zealand, even those previously well known and respected for their religious independence, have became part of the state education system by integration.

There are, however, still some registered private primary and secondary schools run by religious or philosophical organisations or private individuals. These schools aim to provide education that places more emphasis on religious beliefs, skills, attitudes and values.

Parents are prepared to pay for the right to educate their children in the way they believe. This attitude is not only related to religion, but also to academic and behavioural values.

Boarding schools

In New Zealand, attendance at a boarding school is not necessarily just for the rich. Because of the large rural communities, who quite often live in very isolated areas, many parents choose to send their children to boarding schools, partly for the standard of education but also because of the need for their children to socialise. Most boarding schools also accept day pupils.

Oil worth School

A past Labour Party leader, Mike Moore, was educated at Dilworth School in Auckland. This school was founded under the terms of the will of James Dilworth. The trust deed requires 'that pupils be orphans or the sons of persons of good character and in straited circumstances'.

Correspondence School

This national school provides distance education for preschoolers, full-time primary and secondary pupils doing one or more subjects, and adult full-time or part-time students who wish to continue their education.

It offers over 800 courses from certificate to degree level. Subjects range from the new Bachelor of Business degree, real estate, hairdressing and agriculture, to plumbing and airline pilot's licences. There are over 350 tutors and 120 support staff, educating more than 25,000 students every year.

For further information on this form of education see the addresses at the back of this book.

Polynesian schools

Auckland is regarded now as the Polynesian capital of the world, and understandably, many schools in the Auckland area are either totally Polynesian or have a large percentage of Polynesian pupils. This means that many of the education programmes are orientated towards Polynesian culture, and standards are modified to allow for language difficulties. Maori language and culture is taught widely in all New Zealand schools.

Education developments

The Ministry of Education has put into place a curriculum structure that established the essential learning areas, the skills needed and the values young children should learn at school. It set out the compulsory requirements from new entrants to school leavers. The essential areas of learning are language, maths, science, technology, social sciences, the arts, health and physical well-being.

It was intended also to reinforce the values of individual and collective responsibility of honesty, reliability, respect for others and for the law, tolerance, fairness, caring and compassion, non-sexism and non-racism.

Reading problems

There are specialist teachers attached to schools throughout New Zealand who provide long-term assistance for children with serious reading problems. Secondary school attainments

School Certificate

The School Certificate examination is taken by most pupils at the end of three years of secondary education. Except for part-time adult students, each candidate's course of study must include English, although the student is not required to sit the examination in that subject. A candidate may enter the examination in any number of subjects up to six and is credited with a grade for each subject. There are seven grades – Al (highest), A2, Bl, B2 (middle), Cl, C2, and D (lowest).

School Certificate is broadly equivalent to the UK General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) at grades A-E; the UK General Certificate in Education (GCE) at O level; the UK Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) at grades one to three; and the Canadian or United States Grade 10.

Sixth Form Certificate

Sixth Form Certificate is awarded, on a single-subject basis to pupils who have satisfactorily completed a course of one year in one or more subjects. No more than six subjects can be taken. Each school candidate must study a course of English, though the candidate is not required to enter it as a Sixth Form Certificate qualification. Grades are awarded on a 1-9 scale, grade one being the highest. Sixth Form Certificate is broadly equivalent to Canadian or United States Grade 11.

Higher School Certificate

Higher School Certificate is awarded to pupils who have been accepted for entry to Form Six and have since satisfactorily completed an advanced course of two years in at least three subjects. It is also awarded to pupils who have obtained an A' or 'B' Bursary qualification from the University Bursaries Examination.

Higher School Certificate, University Bursary or University Scholarship is broadly equivalent to UK GCE A levels; Canadian or United States Grade 12; in different Australian States, per 12 awards, Higher School Certificate, Senior Certificate, Matriculation, and Secondary School Certificate.

Bursary and scholarship examinations

The University Bursaries Examination is usually taken by secondary school pupils in Form Seven. It is a competitive examination for supplementary awards for study at a university. Subject scholarships are awarded on the basis of results in this examination and are administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.


Educating children can be costly, especially if they go to private school and then to university. Some estimates suggest it would cost NZ$132,927 to send a girl to private secondary school, independent boarding school, and to medical school. Five years' boarding is about $37,800 plus five years at a private school is around $81,625 and medical school is about $13,496 per year. Some sources suggest the costs could top $200,000 to become a doctor and as much as $50,000 to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree.


New Zealand has seven universities: the University of Auckland, University of Waikato (Hamilton), Massey University (Palmerston Worth), Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury (Christchurch), Lincoln University (Christchurch) and University of Otago (Dunedin).

All the universities offer courses in a wide range of subjects in the arts, social sciences, commerce and science. Law and music courses are available at Auckland, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago universities. Most universities specialist in certain fields.

  • The University of Otago offers courses in medicine, dentistry, surveying, home science, physical education and pharmacy.
  • The University of Canterbury offers courses in forestry, engineering and fine arts.
  • Lincoln University specialises in agriculture and horticulture and offers a wide range of commerce courses.
  • The University of Auckland offers courses in architecture, planning, engineering, medicine, optometry and fine arts.
  • Victoria University offers courses in architecture, public administration and social work.
  • Massey University has courses in agriculture, horticulture, food technology and veterinary science as well as extramural tuition in a wide range of subjects for students.

Each university sets its own programmes, and each university council sets the dates for terms or semesters. All matters relating to management are the responsibility of the council of the institution which represents the interest of staff, students and the community. The council is also responsible for approving course regulations and for maintaining the equivalences of courses for degrees and other qualifications.

The university academic year runs from late February to early November each year. A university education is open to anyone meeting the entry criteria set by the individual universities.

Choosing the right university

It can be very difficult to assess which university would be the right one for you when you are living overseas, so here is a brief description of all seven to help you with this decision. The fees are for the year 2000, so it would be advisable to check they have not changed when you make your enquiries at the university of your choice.

When you have been accepted by the university of your choice you will automatically be passed on to the correct department for accommodation to be arranged.

Auckland University

The University of Auckland opened in 1883 and is the largest of New Zealand's seven universities. The University is in the centre of Auckland City, separated from the tower blocks of the central business district by historic Albert Park, where students can sit and relax in between lectures. To the south-east lie the trees and open spaces of the Auckland Domain.

The proximity of the University to the cultural and commercial amenities of New Zealand's largest city, attractive green setting and harbour views, bestow advantages enjoyed by few inner-city campuses anywhere.

Student accommodation

University halls of residence are available from NZ$150 to $185 per week, including two meals per day, but many students prefer to share private flats or houses, and there is a large selection of rented accommodation available at reasonable rates. Here students can expect to pay NZ$87 to $150 per week, plus a share of the food, telephone and electricity costs.

For further information contact the Accommodation and Conference Centre, 14-16 Mount Street, Auckland. Tel: 64 9 373 7599 ext 7691. Fax: 64 9 373 7552. Website: or Auckland University International Office at Private Bag 92019. Tel: 64 9 373 7513. Fax: 64 9 373 7405. Email:

Lincoln University

Lincoln first opened its doors to students in 1878 as a small school of agriculture. A few years later Lincoln become Canterbury Agricultural College and a degree course in agriculture was added to the curriculum. In 1961, Lincoln became a University College with close ties to the University of Canterbury and in 1990 it received independent university status. Lincoln University thus became New Zealand's seventh and newest university. The University is situated in rural surroundings, 20km from Christchurch. The township of Lincoln is close by, and has a good range of shops and services.

Lincoln now offers a wide range of single or multidisciplinary research opportunities and has a tradition of commitment to its postgraduate students. Staff have expertise in the supervision and management of postgraduate programmes in commerce and management, primary production and natural resources, science and technology, and social sciences.

Close links with resource-based industries, government and private organisations and other bodies ensure that Lincoln University research programmes are relevant to society's needs. Students may receive advice and some supervision from skilled people employed by other organisations, and funding is available sometimes for collaborative programmes.


The University has five farms, as well as an orchard and a Horticultural Research Unit. The Research, Dairy and Arable Farms, together with the Horticultural Research Unit and the Sheep Breeding Unit, are adjacent to the campus.

Most field research work is done on the Research Farm and the Horticultural Research Area, but larger farm trials are carried out on the other units. Land and animals for research are allocated by a committee so that, as far as possible, every request is adequately accommodated.

Student accommodation

Accommodation is available in the halls of residence at a cost of about NZ$168 per week – this includes two meals a day. Self-catering halls of residence start from $90 per week, which includes electricity, heating and telephone calls. Student flats start from $78 per week – this does not include electricity, heating and telephone calls. Family units are priced from $165 per week and also do not include electricity, heating and telephone calls. For further information contact the Accommodation Services, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Canterbury, NZ. Tel: 64 3 325 3620 Fax: 64 3 325 2960. Email:

University of Waikato, Hamilton

Waikato University was established in 1964. There are currently nearly 10,000 students enrolled, including 250 international students. The spacious and picturesque campus is situated 3km from Hamilton City. Its facilities include well-equipped modern teaching buildings and laboratories which are grouped in a central academic area on an attractively landscaped campus covering 64 hectares. The campus also boasts a new recreation centre, extensive sporting grounds and a swimming pool.

The University region is steeped in Maori history and it includes four of the major tribal confederations: Tainui, Te Arawa, Mataatua, and Tairawhiti.

Student accommodation

There are five halls of residence costing roughly NZ$161 per week, per room – this includes three catered meals. Older students usually prefer to share a flat or house with other students, and there is a range of houses to choose from such as three- to five-bedroom houses on their own plot of land, or two-storied units/apartment blocks. You can expect to pay between $95 and $125 per week, per room; additional costs include electricity, telephone and food. For further information contact the International Students Office, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, NZ. Tel: 64 7 838 4439. Fax: 64 7 838 4269.

Otago University, Dunedin

Founded in 1869, the University of Otago is recognised internationally as a leader in many areas of research, and has first-class status as a teaching institution.

The campus is one of the most beautiful and closely knit in New  Zealand. The waters of the Leith River meander through the grounds, which contain an attractive blend of historic and modern buildings. The University is ringed by the halls of residence and these are surrounded by the distinctive Victorian and Edwardian houses and modern flats which are used for student accommodation. The University is only five minutes from the centre of Dunedin.

Student accommodation

Accommodation is available in the halls of residence at a cost of about NZ$160 per week. Private board is also available for around $110 per week. Sharing a house or flatting on present room rates will cost about $85 per week, plus food, electricity and power. For further information regarding the University, its courses and accommodation contact Otago University at PO Box 56, Dunedin, NZ. Tel: 64 3 479 8344. Fax: 64 3 479 8367. Email:

Canterbury University, Christchurch

Canterbury is located in Christchurch, the largest city in South Island. On the coastal edge of the Canterbury plains, the city is close to both the sea and mountains. Christchurch is commonly referred to within New Zealand as the 'Garden City' and is surrounded by beautiful parks, beaches, reserves and is renowned for its recreational and cultural facilities.

The University's modern and well-equipped facilities spread across a spacious suburban campus, close to the city centre. The campus buildings have a floor area of 155,000 square metres in a park-like setting of 76 hectares and are home to over 12,500 students. The University of Canterbury offers a wide range of subjects in a variety of flexible degree structures.

Student accommodation

First year undergraduate students will be assisted to find accommodation in private homes with New Zealand families (private board). There is no permanent university accommodation for overseas students, but it is possible to stay in the Ham Flats for four weeks. The Manager may be able to extend this time during the period June to November to allow students time to find their own accommodation.

Only a limited number of students can be given the initial four weeks in the Ham Flats, so early arrangements are essential. Accommodation for spouses is only available in Ham Flats from mid-November to mid-February. It is important to apply for accommodation well in advance as you may have to wait a month or more for vacancies. To make your reservations please contact The Manager, Ham Flats, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch. Tel: 64 3 348 3441. Bookings will only be accepted if you have been accepted for the course. Accommodation in private board may cost in the region of NZ $160 per week. Private flats may cost up to $100 per week, depending on the number sharing the flat. This does not include food, telephone and electricity.

For further information on Canterbury University apply to the Registrar, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch. Tel: 64 3 366 7001. Fax: 64 3 364 2999. Approximate tuition fees Undergraduate Postgraduate

Arts $12,000 $15,500
Commerce $13,000 $15,000
Science $16,000 $18,000
Engineering $18,500 $20,000
Forestry Science $17,000 $20,000
Law $13,000 $15,500

Tuition fees paid in advance of enrolment will be refunded if the student does not enrol.

Victoria University, Wellington

Victoria University is situated on an imposing 16 hectare site overlooking the capital and its harbour. It lies within easy walking distance of the city centre, which can be reached by the cable car, and the National Library and Parliament buildings (the 'Beehive').

Established in 1899 Victoria was until 1962 a College of the University of New Zealand. With a faculty structure similar to that of many British universities, it offers both traditional academic disciplines within a flexible degree structure and a range of specialist courses. Recently there has been a major expansion in areas such as management, marketing and information systems, Asian and Pacific languages, Maori studies, English as a foreign language, drama, public and social policy and criminology.

The campus provides opportunities to take part in a variety of activities, as well as welfare and support services. As a university within a city, its students also have easy access to the capital's many amenities.

Student accommodation

There are three halls of residence that offer full-time accommodation – these are very popular with first year students. The cost starts around NZ$180 per week. Flatting is also very popular. Shared flats can cost anywhere from $90 per week not including living expenses. Private board is available, and the cost usually includes two meals per day with three at the weekend – from around $165 per week. Further information can be obtained from the International Students office, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington. Tel: 64 4 471 5350.

Massey University, Palmerston North

Founded in 1927, Massey Agricultural College was named after a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, William Ferguson Massey. The College offered degree programmes leading to Bachelor and Master of Agricultural Science and students could also enrol in a variety of shorter courses in farm management and technology. Courses in horticulture were introduced after the war.

Massey College became a University in early 1964. Massey is the leading provider of extramural or 'university correspondence' courses in the southern hemisphere.

Massey is now New Zealand's second largest tertiary institution. It occupies a 40 hectare campus. The University farms 5,250 hectares of land of which 900 hectares surround the campus. This area has a full range of agricultural enterprises including dairy farms, sheep and cattle farms, a cropping unit, orchard and a deer facility. As well as operating as commercial enterprises the farms are an extension of the lecture theatre, providing facilities for student demonstrations and research.

Student accommodation

The University has halls of residence with places for a limited number of students. In recent years demand has often exceeded supply so an application must be made. These are available from the University Liaison Officer or Residential Services Office. The closing date for applications is towards the end of October.

A single room costs roughly NZ$160 per week and includes breakfast and an evening meal. Accommodation outside the campus can be found within the surrounding area of Palmerston North. For further information contact the Registrars Office, Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ. Website:


If you have a typical student's income and costs, you will spend most of your money on accommodation and food. Use the budget form below to work out your budget. The sample budgets are based on Victoria University, and so could change with other universities.

An approximation of living costs

Halls of residence

$ 185.00 Per week for a single room
$ 150.00 Per week for a shared room
$ 200.00 Placement fee and Activities fee
$ 30.00 Per semester for communal laundry facilities
$ 110.50 Per semester for uncovered off-street parking
$ 15.00 Per semester for a lockable bike shed


$ 78.00 Per week, per room sharing with 4-6 people
$ 156.00 Placement fee
$ 10.00 Per week for telephone
$ 15.00 Per week for electricity
$ 25.00 Per week for transport

University costs

$ 167.00 Student services fee
$ 15,000.00 Tuition (approx.)
$ 50.00 Textbooks per semester
$ 310.00 Insurance travel, health, personal, per semester

Now fill in the form which follows to see what your budget will be.

How to prepare your budget

1. Work out your income for the academic year:

  • Savings from vacation work
  • Income tax refund
  • Other income: interest, dividends, trust loans
  • Gifts, allowances from parents/relatives
  • Student allowances
  • A or B bursary award
  • Other scholarship or awards
  • Income part-time jobs
  • Total income for academic year

2. Work out your likely expenses for the academic year:

  • Tuition fees
  • Students' Association fee
  • Student services levy
  • Textbooks, stationery
  • Hall of residence deposit
  • Hall heating and linen charge
  • Hall residents fee
  • Bond for flat and agent's fee
  • Deposit: gas, electricity, phone
  • Total fixed expenses

Continuing education

All seven universities have centres for continuing education. A typical university education centre has a directorin-charge and a staff of lecturers in a range of academic disciplines. The courses are conducted by various methods – lectures, study conferences, seminars, school of varying lengths (both residential and non-residential) and correspondence courses. Most universities continue to offer the general public substantial continuing education programmes in the liberal studies area. There has been, however, a significant increase in programmes designed for specialist groups, especially occupational. Some of these are national in scope.

North Island

University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland.
Tel: 64 9 373 7513. Fax: 64 9 373 7405.

University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton. Tel:
64 7 856 2889. Fax: 64 7 838 4269.

Massey University, Private Bag 11-122, Palmerston
North. Tel: 64 6 356 9099. Fax: 64 6 350 5603.

Victoria University of Wellington, Box 600, Wellington.
Tel: 64 4 472 1000. Fax: 64 4 499 4601.

South Island

Canterbury University, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch.
Tel: 64 3 366 7001. Fax: 64 3 364 2999.

Lincoln University, PO Box 94, Canterbury. Tel: 64 3 325
2811. Fax: 64 3 325 2965.

Otago University, PO Box 56, Dunedin. Tel: 64 3 479
1100. Fax: 64 3474 1607.


Over recent decades vocational education and training has moved away from the secondary to the continuing education sector, with training formerly provided by technical high schools now provided for by polytechnics. Polytechnics offer a diverse range of vocational and professional programmes and cover an increasing number of various levels of specialisation.

There are 25 Polytechnics in New Zealand. They are Northland Polytechnic, Unitech-Institute of Technology, Auckland Institute of Technology, Manukau Polytechnic, Waikato Polytechnic, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Waiariki Polytechnic, Tairawhiti Polytechnic, Hawke's Bay Polytechnic, Wairarapa Community Polytechnic, Taranaki Polytechnic, Wanganui Regional Polytechnic, Manawatu Polytechnic, Whitireia Polytechnic, Central Institute of Technology, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Hutt Valley Polytechnic, Wellington Polytechnic, Nelson Polytechnic, Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Christchurch Polytechnic, Aoraki Polytechnic, Otago Polytechnic, Telford Polytechnic and Southland Polytechnic. For further details about these organisations write to the Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand, 10344, Wellington. Tel: 04 471 1162. Fax: 04 473 2350.


Over 5,000 students a year from all over New Zealand go to the Central Institute of Technology to study the wide range of courses offered. Most courses fall into the areas of health and science, management or engineering, including many unique sources such as dental technology, podiatry, computer and software engineering, interior design, medical radiation therapy and embalming and funeral directing. An international flavour is added to the campus by CITEC Training Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CIT that manages training programmes for overseas students, some coming from as far away as Hong Kong, Switzerland and Pakistan.

A variety of qualifications are offered including bachelor degrees, diplomas, awards, certificates and New Zealand certificates. Studies can take from a few weeks to four years full-time study. Most courses are available to school-leavers, although some educational prerequisites are required for some courses.

Note', experienced professional people can acquire new skills at intensive short courses and seminars, and people seeking 'second chance' education can enrol in foundation or 'bridging' courses leading to either employment or further study.

The campus is located in Heretaunga in Upper Hutt, Wellington. For further information write to: Central Institute of Technology, Somme Road, Heretaunga, Upper Hutt, Wellington. Tel: 64 4 527 6398. Fax: 64 4 527 6359.


The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has responsibility for Trade Certification and Advanced Vocational Awards, including the curriculum and examination of all three-stage technician certificates, five-stage New Zealand Certificate Courses and the examination of candidates sitting trade certificate or advanced trade certification qualifications. The New Zealand Diploma offers an advanced qualification for students who have completed a New Zealand Certificate in the same or a related area.

Attending technician courses

Both the five-year New Zealand Certificate and the threeyear technician certificate are offered in a variety of vocational areas. New Zealand Certificate courses are part-time and require regular study at day-release and evening classes or intermittent periods of full-time study block courses.

Most subjects may be studied through the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. Students may also study selected New Zealand Certificate courses full-time at a polytechnic. All New Zealand Certificates require students to complete not less than three years of suitable work experience.

Attending trade courses

Training for trade qualifications account for a significant percentage of the work of polytechnics. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has approved a wide range of trade courses and prescriptions under which assessment, examination and certification are conducted. Education and training requirements for the various trades are listed in the respective prescriptions. They specify a mix of theory and practical training, to be obtained through education providers and through on-job experience. The completion of prescribed requirements leads to the issue of Trade Certificate and Advanced Trade Certificate qualifications.