Photo by Gustavo Acero

Over 99,000 international students currently live and study in New Zealand.

There is a great range of opportunities available to international students in New Zealand. From quality secondary school education to a well-established network of English language schools, and internationally respected and recognised tertiary education providers.

Everyone who comes to study to New Zealand from overseas must meet certain rules and requirements. If you are coming to New Zealand to study for more than three months, you will need a visa. Here, you can find out what you need to do to meet requirements and what your student visa means for your family.

The academic year in New Zealand matches the calendar year. Start your application and enrolment process as early as you can, to ensure you have sufficient time to arrange visas and other things.


Most international students must pay foreign student fees at New Zealand educational institutions. However, some international students are exempt from paying these fees, because they are classed as a domestic student. The Ministry of Education provides a list of who is considered to be a domestic student for the purpose of fee payment and enrolment.

Caring for International Students

The Ministry of Education operates a Code of Practice for looking after international students. It covers pastoral care, accommodation and the provision of information.


New Zealand offers all levels of education, from certificates to doctoral degrees. You can learn more about secondary school qualifications, tertiary and industry qualifications and English language qualifications here.

There are opportunities for learning at quality educational institutes in every region of New Zealand. To help you choose which region, which institute and which course is right for you:

Secondary schools

Secondary schools have four 10-week terms, starting in February and ending in mid-December.

  • Some qualifications in the last 3 years of secondary school are based on assessment of the whole year’s work, so early enrolment is encouraged.
  • There are 2-week holiday breaks in April, July and September.
  • Classes are held from Monday to Friday, from about 8.45am to 3.15pm, with an hour lunch break.
  • Sport and other extra-curricular activities take place after school and on Saturday mornings.


Each university has its own timetable but generally, the year is divided into 2 semesters of approximately 12 weeks each, with a two-week break during the semester and a six-week break in the middle of the year.

  • The university year begins in late February or early March and ends in October.
  • Most courses are ‘full year’ courses over both semesters, but some courses only take one semester.
  • Sometimes it is possible to start university study in July.
  • Classes are held Monday to Friday, with libraries are open on weekends.
  • Exams sometimes take place on a Saturday.
  • Some universities offer ‘summer school’ courses from November to February, reducing the number of years it takes to complete a degree.
  • Each semester begins with an orientation week featuring live music and events.

Institutes of technology, polytechnics and private training establishments

Institutes of technology and polytechnics have two semesters – February to June and July to November – with holidays similar to secondary schools. Some half-year courses start in July. Most Private Training Establishments run on a timetable similar to state tertiary institutions

Language schools 

English language schools generally run all year and offer two types of programmes. Courses that give you a specific qualification and courses that are not qualification focussed.

General English Language Courses

Most English language schools offer general English classes. These classes do not give you a specific qualification, but at the end of them you should be able to communicate more easily in English, or be prepared to go on to further study.

English Language Courses with specific qualifications

Many English language schools in New Zealand offer courses which provide students with an internationally recognised qualification. If you want to study at a tertiary institution, for example, you will probably have to meet specific English language requirements, so it is important to find out exactly what standard of English you need for the course you choose to study. New Zealand English language schools offer two major English language certificates:

  • The International English Language Testing System (IELTS). This system is used at most tertiary institutions in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It is increasingly also used in the United States. It assesses your ability to read, write, speak and listen in English.
  • The Princeton Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). This certificate is used in many North American tertiary institutions. It tests your ability to read, write and listen, and tests your spoken English separately.

English language courses may be as short as 1 or 2 weeks or as long as a complete academic year. Classes are generally held from Monday to Friday and sometimes there are organised activities and outings at the weekend.

Most institutions have a dedicated international office to help you with your application For more information about studying in New Zealand, you can contact this office at the Institution you are applying to. They can answer your questions about entry requirements for your programme, tuition fees, and deadlines for applications.

To find out more about what it is like to be an international student in New Zealand, where you can study, and how to make it happen:

New Zealand specialised agents

Education New Zealand accredits education agents in a number of countries to give students and their parents’ assistance in selecting and applying to New Zealand educational institutions. An agent can be a great help in going over your options, and assisting with student visa applications and other paperwork.

You can find the contact details of accredited New Zealand Specialist Agents here.

You can also get free, independent help and advice from your local New Zealand Embassy or Immigration New Zealand office.


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