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Your Complete Guide to Living and Studying in New Zealand

All you need to know about being an international student in New Zealand.

New Zealand, already well-known for its jaw-dropping scenery, is becoming a hotspot for international students looking for world-class higher education and a thriving, inclusive culture to boot.

It’s no wonder that New Zealand is ranked number one as a study abroad destination based on a survey of over 20,000 international students.

Why Study in New Zealand

New Zealand is a great destination for international students, offering a world-class education system.

 All its institutions adhere to global standards, besides being regularly tested and monitored by the government so as to ensure consistent quality and standards.

New Zealand possesses a progressive, responsive education system, combining traditional principles of teaching with innovation and technology, leading to globally recognised and respected qualifications.

It is a member of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, which means its certificates, diplomas and degrees are recognised in all 50 participating countries.

Global rankings

With so many to choose from, picking the right course is always a tough decision. Considering that every student, course and university is different, it’s an important decision to get things right, with research showing that course preparation plays a big role in an international student’s satisfaction.

University rankings are a great way to help compare key performance indicators across different universities. Impressively, all eight New Zealand universities rank well on the latest QS 2019 rankings.



QS Ranking 2019 (Within NZ)

QS Ranking 2019 (Global)


The University of Auckland




University of Otago




Victoria University of Wellington




University of Canterbury




University of Waikato




Lincoln University




Massey University




Auckland University of Technology




Work benefits

New Zealand offers several unique working advantages for international students including the ability to work full-time during holidays and the option of applying for a six-month work permit to gain points for a residency application.

Natural beauty

New Zealand is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and offers an amazing choice for anyone who looks for adventure. Study during the week and choose from activities like bungy jumping, skiing, hiking, rafting or exploring the local culture in your free time.

Education System in New Zealand

The education system in New Zealand is hugely diverse and one of the best in the world, maintaining excellent standards in literacy, mathematics and sciences and ranking well consistently by global standards.

New Zealand education is also becoming increasingly international, influenced by wide employment markets and an increasingly mobile network of teaching staff, researchers and a well-travelled population of students..

Teaching and learning style

New Zealand offers a very supportive environment for its international students. The number of students per classrooms is often smaller than other western countries, allowing for more personalised attention. As teaching methods are constantly developing, you will experience a wide range of teaching techniques and environments. The support for international students goes even further than the classroom, with the New Zealand Government being the first in the world to create a code of practice that outlines a standard of care for international students both in the classroom and outside of it.

You can study at all levels of education from vocational education and training (VET), English language courses to higher education (including universities), both undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Tertiary education includes higher education (including universities) and vocational education and training (VET).

Higher education

Higher education courses can be taken by students to earn an advanced degree and continue their studies in New Zealand. There are three main types of higher education that lead to bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. Teaching at universities normally takes place in large group lectures and small group tutorials.


A vocational education and training (VET) qualification can provide a pathway to entering the workforce or university. There are many vocational training courses in areas such as information technology, business services, art and media, tourism and hospitality, childcare, transport and logistics, construction, mining, manufacturing and rural industries.

Pathway programs

There are also many pathway programs to higher education for international students including foundation studies and English language preparation programs. These ensure that students receive the extra support and assistance they need to succeed.

Academic year

The New Zealand secondary school system starts each year in late January or early February, while vocational and university students start at the end of February/early March. Most secondary schools have three or four terms; universities and vocational colleges have two semesters. Exams are held at the end of each semester (June and November), with 2-4 week breaks between each semester and a longer break over the summer from November/December to February. In some instances, you may be able to choose a course that offers a summer program, which means you can do a third semester in the year.

After graduation

The New Zealand Government offers pathways for recent graduates to live and work in New Zealand. Depending on the area of study, you may have the opportunity to stay and work in New Zealand for up to four years initially.

Your graduate pathway has two steps: a post-study work visa that offers you up to 12 months to find a job in a related field of study, or an employer-assisted work visa that allows you to stay in New Zealand for either two or three years to gain work experience related to a specific job with a specific employer.

Postgraduate study

If you are finishing your bachelor degree, how do you know if undertaking postgraduate study in New Zealand is the next step for you? Deciding to go on to postgraduate study is a big step. It means sacrificing more time and staying out of the workforce a bit longer, but it can also be a very worthwhile investment in the long term.

New Zealand Culture and Way of Life

New Zealand comprises two main islands – the North Island and South Island. More than 90 per cent of New Zealand’s population lives on the North Island, which is also home to the country’s capital city, Wellington.

As a country with no land borders situated in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s landscape has an extraordinary amount of natural beauty. Its landscape, which features towering mountains, long and winding rivers, open plains, amazing coastlines and vast stretches of farmland, makes it the perfect backdrop for lifestyle and leisure activities.

Population and cities

New Zealand is home to nearly 4.7 million people, and is predominately made up of two cultural groups – the Māori, who are descendants of Polynesian settlers, and people of European ancestry. More than 53 per cent of its population lives in the four largest cities – Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch (North Island) and Hamilton (South Island).

The country’s history is largely influenced by Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures – making it a multicultural community.


New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere, making the seasons opposite to those living in the Northern Hemisphere.

The weather seasons in New Zealand are:

  • Summer (December to February)
  • Autumn (March to May)
  • Winter (June to August)
  • Spring (September to November)
  • While the country’s climate is generally mild, with moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine, it is influenced by two main geographical features: the mountains and the sea.
  • In the warmer months, you’ll find the average daytime temperature is around 16 – 25˚C, while in the colder periods the average daytime temperature is between 12 – 21˚C. It’s important to note, the average temperature decreases as you travel south, with inland alpine areas of the South Island experiencing temperatures as cold as -10˚C in the winter months.

    Remember, it’s a good idea to wear a coat or warm sweater as the weather can change dramatically and quickly in New Zealand.

    Staying healthy while you study

    While you’re studying, you might find you are in need of medical support. 

    If you need emergency medical assistance, call 111. It’s a free call, and connects you to police, fire and ambulance services. 

    For general medical support, you can find health service centres or medical clinics either on-campus or in your local area. It’s a good idea to register with a local doctor or medical centre when you first arrive in New Zealand.

    The Accident Compensation Corporation provides 24-hour personal injury and accident cover for all visitors to New Zealand, meaning you will be eligible for accident compensation cover.

    Although the public health system is subsidised by the government, there may be some charges for services when private providers are involved. When enquiring or booking an appointment, you can ask if there will be any extra charges before visiting the doctor or specialist.

    You can also locate a dentist by searching online, but bear in mind, dental care is not covered under government health insurance, so you may need to get supplementary insurance to cover your dental care needs.

If you are interested in studying abroad, we can help you. Just fill out the form on this page to book an appointment with an IDP Education Counselor and we'll assist you from school and visa application until pre-departure activities.


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