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Students studying robotics in New Zealand

How Do You Choose a School or Institution?

Choosing a school or institution in New Zealand is a big decision for international students. Here are five key factors to consider when you’re making your choice.

New Zealand has many schools and tertiary institutions to choose from, but which one would suit you best?

These five factors can help you choose the study destination that’s right for you. 

1. Subjects, courses and programmes 

If you’re a tertiary student, you can choose from a wide variety of courses and programmes at certificate, diploma, bachelor’s degree and postgraduate level.

Many providers also run pathway or foundation programmes for students who need to improve their English before tertiary study. 

Still at school? The main secondary school qualification is NCEA, a flexible qualification that gives you the freedom to follow your strengths and interests. 

There are more than 40 NCEA subjects, so find a school that offers the subjects you want to explore. 

Baiyok Arunya, from Thailand, chose a high school in Dunedin that offered accounting as a subject because she wants to run her own business one day. 

“In New Zealand we can choose whatever subjects we like to study.”

My StudyNZ is a free online tool that can help you narrow down your search for a course and institution. You can keep your notes on My StudyNZ, and even track your study and visa applications.

2. Location

Would you like to live in a big city, a smaller city or town, or in the countryside?

You might prefer to study in a major city like Auckland or Christchurch, a provincial city like New Plymouth or Invercargill, or a close-knit rural community like Northland or Southland. 

Design student Sopanha Kham, from Cambodia, enjoys studying in Wellington because of its distinctive character. “I love the quietness and greenness of Wellington, but most of all I love the shops and cafes,” she says. 

While nature is never far away in New Zealand, if you dream of an outdoor lifestyle you might want to live near beaches, mountains, rivers or national parks. 

Rotorua’s beautiful outdoor landscape was a big attraction for Filippino student adult teaching student Paolo Aguilar.

“As an amateur runner, I love that the city is one big running adventure playground.”

Use the Study in New Zealand interactive map to explore the different regions in New Zealand. 

3. Type of institution

Types of tertiary institution 

New Zealand’s eight universities are based in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Some also have campuses in other parts of the country. 

All our universities are ranked in the top 3% in the world, and offer programmes from bachelors degree level to PhD. 

Institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) provide professional and vocational training, from introductory studies to full degree programmes. The focus is on giving you practical experience and the skills you’ll need in the workplace.  

Private training establishments (PTEs) can give you job-specific training for your career in industries such as aviation, business or game design. Most offer certificates and diplomas, but some also have full degree programmes.

You can choose to study English in New Zealand at an English language school, university or ITP.

Kevin Wang Gang, one of China’s most successful venture capitalists, spent a year studying English in New Zealand. It laid the foundations for him to study entrepreneurship at Massey University, which he says “built my business mind”.

Types of school

You can choose from: 

  • State schools, also known as public schools, which teach the national curriculum. 
  • State-integrated schools, which follow a specific religion or philosophy. They also teach the national curriculum.
  • Private schools, which don’t have to teach the national curriculum. Some offer the Cambridge Assessment International Education programmes or the International Baccalaureate.  

You’ll also need to decide whether you’d like to study at a school that takes both boys and girls (known as a co-education or co-ed school), or a school for either boys or girls.

No matter which type of school you prefer, the New Zealand government has processes in place to make sure students receive a high quality education, gain the skills they need and earn qualifications that are relevant and good value for money.

You can contact institutions and schools directly through My StudyNZ.

An education agent can also give you advice and help you with the application process – make sure you choose an Education New Zealand Recognised Agency.

4. Costs

Away from the big cities, you’re likely to pay less in accommodation costs. You may be able to live closer to where you’re studying, which could cut down on your transport costs. 

Palmerston North’s low cost of living was one of the factors that persuaded Indian production management student Prasannan Thilakan to study there. He also found it had lots of companies where he could apply for paid or unpaid internships.  

“Through interning, I learnt how to fit in with New Zealand office culture, how to appeal to people here and how to communicate effectively.”

Tuition fees will depend on where you study, what course you choose and how long it is. 

My StudyNZ can give you budget information to help you with your decision-making. 

5. Social life

Love anime, powerlifting, kayaking, debating, choirs or drama?

If you want to pursue your passion while you’re studying, New Zealand’s tertiary institutions have lots of clubs, societies and associations to choose from. 

New Zealand schools are famous for offering a wide variety of extra-curricular activities at lunchtimes and after school, ranging from sports, music and the arts to academic subjects. 

Check institutions’ and schools’ websites to find one that offers the activities you’re interested in. 

Joining clubs helped Chinese commerce student Jiashu Yang feel at home at university in Christchurch. 

“My advice to other international students is to take all the opportunities you get.”

Start your education journey today
Find your study match

By Linley Boniface

Updated 3 years ago

Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student. 

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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