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Aug 24, 2020

Education and Training Act 2020 - ‘Biggest education changes in decades’ enacted

The Education and Training Act 2020, containing the biggest changes to New Zealand education in decades, has passed all stages in Parliament and become law.

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Aug 11, 2020

NCEA and University Entrance changes for 2020

NZQA announces changes to NCEA and University Entrance (UE) in 2020 due to COVID-19. Changes will bring a fair opportunity to achieve qualifications and awards despite the disruption to teaching, learning and assessment.

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New Zealand


New Zealand (Aotearoa), a self-governing constituent member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia. The Māori people have inhabited New Zealand for over 1000 years, and are believed to have originated from the Cook Islands or Tahiti. Māoris call New Zealand Aotearoa translated as "Land of the Long White Cloud." The first European to find the islands was a Dutch sailor working for the East India Company, Abel Janszoon Tasman, in 1642. In 1769, the island was visited by British explorer James Cook, and the first British settlement was established in 1814. Māori chieftains made an agreement, the Treaty of Waitangi, with Britain in 1840, in which they ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria while retaining territorial rights. Shortly thereafter, the British began colonizing New Zealand, starting a series of wars between 1843 and 1872 that ended in defeat of the native Māori. The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand’s full participation in a number of defense alliances lapsed by the 1980s. In recent years, the government has sought to address longstanding Māori grievances.

Today, New Zealand is an independent, democratic nation with a popularly elected parliament and a stable social and political environment. Queen Elizabeth II remains the constitutional head of state, but is not active in the government of the country. Elections are held every three years and all New Zealand citizens over 18 have suffrage. Māori New Zealanders vote as part of the general electorate, or in one of the specially allocated Māori seats. New Zealand’s population is 79% European, 10% Māori, 4% Pacific Islander, and 7% Asian and others.


Education in New Zealand is high quality, funded by the state, and compulsory for children aged 6 to 16. Over 90% of children also participate in preschool education. A third of New Zealanders have a tertiary qualification and another 40% have qualifications from secondary school. Tertiary education is partly subsidized by government loans and state allowances for students from low-income families.

Primary Education

Compulsory education in New Zealand is divided into primary (K-6, beginning at age 5), intermediate (grades 7 and 8), and secondary schooling (grades 9-13). Until 1995, these levels were called juniors (first two years), standards (next four years) and forms (two years at intermediate level and five years at secondary). Secondary school years are still commonly referred to as “forms,” year 7 being Form 1 and year 13 being Form 7.

Secondary Education

Before 2004, secondary students took the School Certificate examination at the end of year 11 (Form 5), and were awarded the Sixth Form Certificate after successful completion of year 12 (Form 6). The Sixth Form Certificate allowed for entrance into programs offered by polytechnics and colleges of education, and for provisional entrance to universities in some cases. The Higher School Certificate was awarded after successful completion of year 13 (Form 7). After year 13, students could take the University Entrance, Bursaries and Scholarships Examination. University entrance required the Sixth Form Certificate, the Higher School Certificate, or the University Entrance Bursaries and Scholarships Examination.

In 2002, the government began implementation of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) a new senior secondary school qualification replacing all older certificates. There are three NCEA: Level 1 (year 11 or Form 5), Level 2 (year 12 or Form 6), and Level 3 (year 13 or Form 7). These were implemented in 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively. Entrance to degree study at tertiary education institutions is achieved by gaining a minimum of 42 credits at level 3 or higher of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, and fulfilling specific subject and level requirements, and literacy and numeracy requirements. Domestic students over 20 years of age can apply to tertiary institutions without formal qualifications.

The Certificate of Foundation Studies is known in New Zealand as a “University Pathway” program. Foundation Studies are designed to help students meet academic and English language entry requirements for most universities in New Zealand. The standard program lasts 12 months, but two other programs are also offered: (1) an 8-month Fast Track program and (2) an 18-month extended program which is primarily for non-native speakers of English. Since Foundations Studies is a college-preparatory program, no credit is granted toward an undergraduate degree. The program is meant to “develop your English language and study skills as well as gain an introduction to subjects in your chosen academic field.”

Post-Secondary Education

At the tertiary level, New Zealand has universities, polytechnics (technical and training institutions), colleges of education (teacher training institutions), wananga (public tertiary institutions that offer programs with an emphasis on Māori tradition and customs) and an increasing number of private training establishments. An expanding Māori education sector is built on Māori principles and fosters the Māori language. The academic year for most tertiary institutions starts in February, finishes in November and is often divided into two semesters. Some institutions now offer a “summer trimester” which runs from December or January through February. Universities offer bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees.

First Cycle, Academic

Most bachelors degree courses require 3 years, but some may take up to 6 years. In some faculties a bachelors honors degree is conferred after an additional year of undergraduate study. A postgraduate diploma usually requires 1 year of study after the bachelors degree.

First Cycle, Vocational/Technical

Polytechnics provide a diverse range of academic, vocational and professional programs ranging from certificates and diplomas to degree level.

Second Cycle

A masters degree requires 2 years’ work after a bachelors degree or 1 year after an honors degree. Masters degrees traditionally consist of a thesis based on the results of original research, but increasingly masters degrees by papers, or papers plus research, are becoming available.

Third Cycle

A doctorate normally takes at least 3 years of full-time study and research. The degree is awarded on the basis of the thesis, requiring original research and an oral examination. In special circumstances, examiners may also require the candidate to take a written examination.

Teacher Training

The major qualifications provided by Colleges of Education are a 3-year Diploma of Education and a 3- to 4-year Bachelor of Education degree, awarded jointly with the local university, or by the college itself. In the case of secondary teacher training, a one year, postgraduate diploma is awarded. A Higher Diploma of Teaching and an Advanced Diploma of Teaching are available for practicing teachers.

New Zealand Qualifications Framework

Entry requirements for degree study: From 2004, students must have at least 42 credits at level 3 or higher of the National Qualifications Framework, with certain subject requirements to enter university. Equivalent international qualifications are accepted but students are also required to meet English language requirements. Domestic students aged 20 or over can apply for entry without qualifications.

Level 1 – Unit Standards on the National Qualifications Framework: Offered through a variety of providers ranging from secondary schools; public, private, and community training establishments (including English language schools); adult and community education providers; and industry training.

Level 4, 3, 2 – Certificates: Through universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology, polytechnics, wananga, private training establishments (including English language schools), adult and community education providers, and industry training.

Level 6, 5 – Diplomas: Through universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology, polytechnics, wananga, private training establishments, and industry training.

Level 7 – Degrees, graduate diplomas and certificates: Through universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology, polytechnics, wananga, private training establishments, and industry training.

Level 8 – Honors, post-graduate diplomas and certificates: Through universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology, polytechnics, wananga, and private training establishments.

Level 9 – Masters: Through universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology, polytechnics, wananga, and private training establishments.

Level 10 – Doctorate programs: Offered through universities and one institute of technology.

Māori Education

Before colonization, the Māori had a long-standing educational system. Today, Māori culture and language is studied and developed in specialized teaching and research institutions at all levels of the New Zealand educational system. This system maintains, advances, and disseminates knowledge, develops intellectual independence, and assists the application of knowledge regarding Māori tradition according to Māori custom. A range of qualifications from secondary level certificates through bachelors degrees is available and registered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.



Upcoming AACRAO Events

Crises as Catalysts for Transformation

Fall 2020 | virtual conference

Join us this fall for a virtual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference - Crises as Catalysts for Transformation: 2020’s Impact on Higher Education and Enrollment.

This three day, virtual conference will feature models for adapting to change, meeting challenges, and planning strategically post-pandemic.

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106th AACRAO Annual Meeting

March 28 - 31, 2021 | National Harbor, MD

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting is our largest convening of higher education professionals from around the world. Join more than 2,000 administrators in person or online as we work to address the issues facing today’s campuses, share goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

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