Working in New Zealand – Education Sector and Research Funding

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by Sarah Marten 

New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Strategy for 2010-2015 focuses on helping young people to achieve their highest potential. Tertiary education is changing to make it even more relevant and efficient, to meet the needs of students, the labour market and the economy.

New Zealand has eight universities which provide undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and diplomas. These are:

 North Island:

  • University of Auckland
  • Auckland University of Technology
  • Massey University (Palmerston North)
  • Victoria University of Wellington
  • University of Waikato (Hamilton)

 South Island:

  • Lincoln University (Lincoln, near Christchurch)
  • University of Canterbury, Christchurch
  • University of Otago, Dunedin

 N.B. Some of the universities also have campuses at other locations.

Fees vary between the different universities, but start at around $4500 for teaching and humanities courses and rise to over $12,000 per year for subjects such as medicine and dentistry. Fees for overseas students are considerably higher. Loans are available to cover the cost of tuition fees, course-related costs and living expenses.  Loans are interest-free for graduates who stay in New Zealand.

Domestic (home) student fees are paid by New Zealand and Australian citizens and permanent New Zealand residents.

Students can apply for a “Student Allowance”, which is a means-tested weekly payment which helps with living expenses for full-time students. This money does not have to be re-paid. Scholarships, bursaries and awards are also available.

There are also 20 government-funded Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology that offer both academic and vocational courses including degrees, certificates and diplomas.

There are three Wananga which are tertiary institutions that provide degrees, diplomas and certificates in accordance with Maori philosophies.

New Zealand also has a number of private training establishments at the tertiary level.

Teacher training is provided by seven of the universities and a number of the private training establishments.

University Applications

New Zealand students are qualified to enter a New Zealand university if they achieve a certain number of credits at level three or higher from the New Zealand Qualification Framework. These are often relaxed for applicants over the age of 20. Consult the university websites for full details of entry requirements.


Most New Zealand universities operate a two semester system, and the dates can vary. Semester One usually runs from February to June, Semester Two from mid-July to mid-November, and the Summer School from early January to mid-February.

Further details about applications and semester dates can be found at:

Also look at the University Guide:

Degree Grading

New Zealand universities generally award letter grades from A to E with plus and minus variations. The letter grades correspond to percentage mark bands which vary between universities. D and E grades represent a fail. For honours degrees the letter grades correspond to degree classes, e.g. A grades mean a first-class degree.

Funding University Research

The Performance Based Research Fund is a New Zealand tertiary education funding process which allocates research funding on the basis of the quality of research undertaken in individual institutions, known as Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs).

This has replaced the old model of allocating research funding according to student numbers.

The quality is assessed according to research degree completion numbers, the amount of external research funding and evaluation of the research performance of academic staff.

Academics are required to submit evidence via a portfolio, detailing research outputs, contribution to the research environment and peer esteem.

Further information can be found at:

TEOs can also apply for competitively awarded funds from a range of bodies. Applications for these funds are also made by other research providers, including private providers and Crown Research Institutes (CRIs).

CRIs are the science research businesses owned by the crown or New Zealand government, and were formed in 1992 from existing government-owned research bodies. The CRIs are the largest providers of funding for scientific research in New Zealand.

The main source of government funds are:

Ministry of Science Research and Technology (MoRST) - this is a large funding body that funds research within science and technology. This is set to merge with the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to become the new Ministry of Science and Innovation. 

The Marsden Fund - funds research in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities. This fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The Health Research Council (HRC) – this is a crown agency responsible for the management of government investment in public good health research.

There are also a number of private funds and New Zealand HE institutions also compete for international research funding.


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