Country Guide : Study in New Zealand

Are you planning to study in New Zealand? If so, we understand why! This country really seems to have it all: well-reputed universities, high quality of life, diverse communities, vibrant cities, stunning natural scenery and an unbeatable range of outdoor pursuits, all within a relatively compact area. Cities such as Auckland and Wellington offer no shortage of cultural activities, while for those with a passion for the great outdoors, the range of terrains to explore is mind-blowing – including glaciers, mountains, rainforest and of course plenty of coastline.

Universities in New Zealand

There are eight universities in New Zealand, all of which feature in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15 – not at all bad considering the country's population is only around 4 million. In addition, New Zealand's higher education system also includes 20 institutes of technology and polytechnics, which offer vocational courses of varying lengths and levels.

Read more about the top five universities in New Zealand:

University of Auckland

The University of Aucklandis New Zealand’s largest and highest ranked university. Currently it ranks at 92nd in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings 2014/15. Established back in 1883, it was a constituent college of the University of New Zealand before it dissolved in 1961. The university is made up of eight faculties and six campuses, and currently has more than 40,000 students. It’s situated in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, which makes it an even more attractive choice for numerous students from around the globe.

University of Otago

New Zealand’s oldest higher education institution, the University of Otago, was established in 1869. It is New Zealand’s second entry in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, ranked 159th in the world. The university, whose memorable motto is “Dare to be wise”, currently teaches more than 20,000 students in its four divisions (faculties), which cover humanities, sciences, health sciences and business. It is situated in Dunedin, which is the second largest city on the South Island.

University of Canterbury

Also located on the South Island, but in its largest city of Christchurch, the University of Canterbury is New Zealand’s third highest ranked university at 242nd in the world. It was founded in 1873, which makes it the second-oldest higher education institution in the country. About 15,000 students are enrolled here, with courses offered in subjects including arts, commerce, engineering, fine arts, forestry, health sciences, law, music, social work, speech and language pathology, science, sports coaching and teaching.

Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University of Wellingtonis New Zealand’s fourth entrant in the QS World University Rankings, at 275th as of the 2014/15 edition. It was established in 1897 as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, and became an independent institution in 1961. The university is home to more than 20,000 students in its nine faculties. It is well known for its programs in law, the humanities and some scientific disciplines, but it offers a wide range of other courses as well.

Massey University

Established in 1927, Massey University is one of the younger universities in New Zealand, but has rapidly grown to become one of the country’s largest. It has approximately 35,000 students enrolled, of which just under half are studying via distance learning. Those studying on-campus are spread across the North Island at the university’s three main campuses, in Albany (just outside Auckland), Wellington and Palmerston North. Massey University is ranked 346th in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15.

New Zealand consistently comes out near the top in ratings of the world’s best places to live in terms of quality of life. It has an appealing climate, stunningly beautiful natural landscapes, and cities which are modern and multicultural. Find out more about life in some of New Zealand’s top student cities:


On the east coast of North Island, Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and home to its highest ranking university, the University of Auckland. Auckland is known for its especially multicultural community, and (though this is true of the whole country) for the wide range of high-adrenaline activities available in and around the city. Jet-skiing, canyoning, surfing, abseiling, bungee-jumping, snowboarding, climbing, diving – you get the idea. Or of course you might choose to simply relax on the beach!

Other universities in Auckland include Auckland University of Technology and several institutes of technology and polytechnics, while Massey University’s Albany campus is less than 20km north of the city center.


On the south coast of North Island, Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand. It’s believed by some to be more aesthetically attractive than rival Auckland (we’ll let you make up your own mind), and offers a good selection of culture, cuisine and nightlife within a relatively compact area. And of course, stunning natural scenery is never far away in New Zealand – here, you’ll find beaches, forests, islands, hills and vineyards all within easy reach.

Universities in Wellington include Victoria University of Wellington and one of Massey University’s three campuses, as well as several institutes of technology and polytechnics. The University of Otago has a medical school here, and the New Zealand School of Music (run jointly by Victoria University of Wellington and Massey University) is also based in Wellington.


Located on the east coast of South Island, Christchurch is the largest city on the island and the third most-populous urban area in New Zealand. In recent years, the city has undergone major redevelopment projects, following damage from earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s just as lively as before the natural disasters struck. Marketing itself as the ‘Garden City’, Christchurch prides itself on its large areas of public parkland and picturesque river banks, as well as its thriving arts and cultural scene. And yes, since this is New Zealand, you’ll find the usual broad selection of outdoor pursuits. Universities in Christchurch include the University of Canterbury (New Zealand’s third highest ranked) and Lincoln University, as well as a selection of specialist colleges, many of them private.


The second-largest city in the South Island, Dunedin is the main city in the Otago region. Again on the east coast of the island, Dunedin is about 300km (190 miles) south of Christchurch. Formerly New Zealand’s largest city (until around 1900), Dunedin retains a leading position in the country’s culture, and is a major student hub, with students accounting for a significant proportion of its community. Dunedin is home to New Zealand’s second highest-ranked and oldest university, the University of Otago.

Applying to study in New Zealand

The academic year for higher education in New Zealand runs from March to November. However, some courses may also allow students to start in July. Most universities in New Zealand have just two terms (semesters), with the exception of Victoria University of Wellington, which has three terms (trimesters).

As well as having completed secondary level qualifications recognized by New Zealand’s universities, applicants also need to prove English language proficiency, usually by taking the IELTS or TOEFL exams. New Zealand does not have a centralized university applications service, so students need to apply individually to each university they’re interested in. Deadlines for this are set by each institution.

Visas to study in New Zealand

Those who are planning to study in New Zealand for more than three months need to apply for a student visa (for less than three months, a visitor visa is fine). New Zealand student visa requirements include:

  • Proof of an offer of a place at an approved institution
  • Evidence of sufficient funds to cover living expenses and a flight back to your home country
  • Health insurance
  • For those under 18, a letter guaranteeing suitable accommodation has been arranged
  • For those over 17, a police certificate of good character
  • For courses over 12 months, medical certificates, which may include screening for tuberculosis

Visa applications are made via the nearest branch of the New Zealand Immigration organization. The application fee varies depending on where you’re applying from.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees in New Zealand vary depending both on the institution and the subject. As an example, in 2014, international students taking an undergraduate law degree could expect to be charged between NZ$25,000 (US$19,408) and NZ$30,000 (US$23,290) per year. A full list of fees for each subject and at each university is provided by Universities New Zealand, the organization which represents New Zealand's universities.