About New Zealand universities

Key terminology

There are a few key differences in terminology between the US and New Zealand when discussing university study:

  • the word “college” refers to high school and not university;
  • a course is called a “paper” in New Zealand;
  • graduate study is called “postgraduate” study in New Zealand;
  • a university catalogue is called a “calendar” in New Zealand.

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Universities in New Zealand

University education in New Zealand was established in 1870 and has a similar tradition to the British university system.

There are eight government-funded universities in New Zealand offering a broad range of subjects in the arts, business and science. A number of universities have become well-known in specialist subject areas such as Medicine, Engineering, Law, Veterinary Science and Agriculture and Environmental Studies.

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Universities in New Zealand are self-managing and have mechanisms for internal and external monitoring and review of their academic programmes.

The Committee on University Academic Programmes of Universities New Zealand is responsible for ensuring that New Zealand university academic programmes meet quality standards.

Universities must also satisfy New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) standards and demonstrate that appropriate criteria are being applied and that standards are being maintained.

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The New Zealand academic year

The academic year in New Zealand begins in late February or early March (end of summer) and finishes in November (spring). Most of the universities in New Zealand operate on a semester system, although a few operate on a trimester or quarter system.

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Research in New Zealand universities

Research by New Zealand university staff covers a wide spectrum and forms a vital aspect of university teaching. Research is the principal characteristic that distinguishes universities from other tertiary education institutions in New Zealand. New Zealand universities maintain a high level of research activity that continues to be internationally recognised.

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Further information

The following websites are very good for further background information about New Zealand universities and the university system:

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