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Masters Study in New Zealand - A Guide for 2018

Featured Universities

New Zealand has a reputation as a popular tourist destination, but international students don’t just travel there for the local landscapes, wildlife and sporting opportunities.

You can do all of these while studying a Masters in New Zealand, of course, but you’ll also have access to a wide variety of postgraduate degrees at internationally-renowned universities.

Here you can find out how postgraduate degrees work within the New Zealand university system, what the visa requirements are for international students and more.

Elsewhere in this section you can also read specific guides to fees and funding and student life for postgraduates in New Zealand.

On this page

Postgraduate opportunities in New Zealand – what’s on offer for 2018?

There are plenty of great reasons to study a Masters in New Zealand. You might be looking to indulge your sense of adventure while studying for a postgraduate degree – in which case you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied in a country that offers snow-capped ski-resorts and sub-tropical oceans.

Or you might be a very dedicated fan of The Lord of the Rings, with a plan to visit the beautiful landscapes made famous by recent blockbuster movie adaptations.

And there are plenty of other reasons to study in New Zealand. Here are just a few reasons to consider postgraduate study in New Zealand this year:

  • Internationally-renowned universities – Although there are only eight universities in New Zealand, four feature in the world’s top 350. If you think about it, that’s a pretty impressive proportion.
  • A familiar education system modelled on the UK’s – New Zealand university degrees are also recognized worldwide.
  • Quality of life – New Zealand consistently appears near the top of various quality of life metrics, with a reputation for being one of the world’s least corrupt and most peaceful nation.
  • A welcoming attitude to international students – Around 25% of New Zealand’s population was born overseas, and the country is known for its tolerance and diversity.

Masters Study in New Zealand - Key Details
Universities 8
Oldest University University of Otago (1869)
International Students 53,854
Course Length 1-2 years
Average Fees (international) NZD $25,000-40,000 (USD $18,080-28,925)
Academic Year February to November

New Zealand universities

With only eight universities, New Zealand isn’t home to the largest higher education system in the world, but the degrees it awards are recognised internationally.

Universities in New Zealand

All of New Zealand’s universities are publically-funded institutions, offering a wide range of Masters degrees. They are split almost evenly between the two main islands that make up New Zealand:

  • AUT University, University of Auckland, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington and Waikato University are located on the North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui).
  • The University of Canterbury, University of Otago and Lincoln University are located on the South Island (Te Waipounamu).

All of these universities offer Masters degrees and you can study at any of them as an international student.

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITP)

The New Zealand higher education system also includes several Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics. These specialise in vocational courses and other postgraduate degrees in subjects such as nursing, midwifery, art and design and others.

An ITP can therefore be an excellent choice for postgraduate students seeking a professional Masters-level qualification in New Zealand.

The academic year in New Zealand

Just like the rest of the southern hemisphere, New Zealand begins its academic year in February. The academic calendar is split into two semesters, running from February to June and from July to November.

As a Masters student you can potentially begin your degree in either semester. Masters courses are usually available to start in either February or July, although some professional courses are only available to start in semester 1 (February).

New Zealand university rankings

Even though the New Zealand higher education system is relatively small, it punches well above its weight on the world stage, and can be rightly proud of its position in the various international ranking systems. In fact, all eight New Zealand universities feature in the world’s top 500.

We’ve summarised New Zealand’s performance in the three major league tables below.


Top New Zealand Universities in 2018
University THE 2018 QS 2018 ARWU 2017
University of Auckland 192 =82 201-300
University of Otago 201-250 151 301-400
University of Canterbury 351-400 214 401-500
University of Waikito 351-400 292 -
Auckland University of Technology 401-500 441-450 -
Massey University 401-500 =316 -
Victoria University of Wellington 401-500 219 301-400
Lincoln University 501-600 =319 -
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do university rankings matter for postgraduates?

University league tables can help you in your search for a Masters degree, but you need to know what to look for. Our guide to university rankings for Masters study can help.

New Zealand university cities

Despite its small population, New Zealand has several university cities to choose from when it comes to postgraduate study, each with their own charm. Whether you’re interested in a diverse, modern metropolis like Auckland or the historic architecture of Dunedin, New Zealand has much to offer.

Here are the main urban centres in New Zealand:

Course types

Masters degrees in New Zealand are postgraduate qualifications, modelled on the well-known British and Irish system. This means they usually follow a course of undergraduate study on a Bachelors degree and can be a prerequisite for advanced postgraduate research work at PhD level.

Types of Masters degree in New Zealand

Postgraduate courses in New Zealand can be designed to suit a variety of career aims. Instead of simply selecting a Masters in an academic subject area linked to your Bachelors degree you can also use postgraduate study and training to acquire or develop professional skills.

This can be particularly useful if you wish to specialise in fields at which New Zealand excels, such as education, social work, sports science and physiotherapy.

There are four main varieties of Masters degree in New Zealand:

  • Traditional Masters programmes are academic courses, building on a related undergraduate program. They tend to award familiar qualifications such as the Masters of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc).

    You can use these courses to develop your existing subject knowledge and take advantage of specialist academic expertise at universities in New Zealand.

  • Change of direction Masters degrees are designed to help you switch academic or career pathways and become competent in a field you haven’t previously studied. Most will offer a solid grounding in a subject before offering the chance to specialise in a specific aspect of it.

    You can use these courses to make the transition between careers, or move from an academic to a professional focus.

  • Graduate entry professional qualifications allow candidates to acquire advanced vocational skills at the postgraduate level or qualify for professional careers such as teaching or social work.

    You can use these courses to enter regulated professions (such as teaching) but should ensure your qualifications are recognised and accredited in the country you eventually plan to work in.

  • Professional development qualifications, unlike graduate entry courses, are designed for candidates with relevant work experience. They can provide additional skills and training to enhance or modify an existing career path.

    You can use these courses to acquire advanced postgraduate training in your professional field. For example, you might be a marketing specialist looking to specialise in digital communications, or a teacher seeking to develop school management skills.

What about Masters by Research?

New Zealand’s universities offer research-based Masters degrees as well as taught courses. Most of these will be academic programmes, during which you will produce an extended independent dissertation under the supervision of a suitable expert.

As a Masters student you won’t be expected to produce research with the same scope as a PhD project, but you will still be required to identify an original topic of inquiry. Some institutions may offer an upgrade path between Research Masters and PhD degrees. You can read more about PhD study in New Zealand at FindAPhD.com.

How long do Masters degrees take in New Zealand?

Traditional Masters programmes in New Zealand usually last for two years. The first year is taught by coursework, the second year is research based.

There are now also a wide range of primarily taught Masters courses in New Zealand, which usually last for just one year. Research Masters are usually longer, with programmes up to two years long. You can check the course length for individual Masters degrees in New Zealand by browsing our course listings.

Fees and funding

Masters fees in New Zealand aren’t controlled by the government, so the exact costs vary from institution to institution and programme to programme. The cost of a Masters also depends on your nationality – domestic students in New Zealand are eligible to pay tuition fees at a considerably lower rate than international students.

As an international student, you can expect to pay somewhere between NZD $25,000 and NZD $40,000 (USD $18,075-28,915) per year for a Masters. Arts and Humanities subjects will be at the lower end of this scale, while Science and Engineering subjects will be near the top.

Read more about New Zealand Masters fees and funding

Our guide to New Zealand postgraduate fees and funding covers this topic in more detail, with information on scholarship opportunities, average fees and funding eligibility.

Applying for a Masters in New Zealand

Universities in New Zealand are free to set their own admissions processes, but all will welcome applications from prospective international students.

Admissions criteria

Entry criteria will vary slightly between different programme types:

  • Academic Masters programmes in New Zealand will normally require an undergraduate degree in a related subject area. This may not have to be the exact same subject as your postgraduate degree, but it should have some relevance. A Masters in History might build on a Bachelors in Literature, for example, but probably not on an undergraduate Physics degree.
  • Professional Masters programmes in New Zealand may require relevant work experience. This is less likely for graduate entry qualifications, but will be a pre-requisite for most professional development courses.

Where a programme requires an undergraduate degree universities may specify a minimum result. This will usually be a 2:1 or higher (roughly equivalent to a US GPA of 3.0 or better) but universities may choose to modify their requirements. If you have not received your desired degree result but are otherwise submitting a strong application, you may still be considered.

Application deadlines

Application deadlines for Masters degrees in New Zealand vary according to the semester in which a course begins:

  • For a Masters beginning in semester one (February-June) you should normally apply by the 31st of October in the preceding year.
  • For a Masters beginning in semester two (July-November) you should normally apply by the 30th of April in the year your course commences.

Application process

There are various ways to apply for a Masters in New Zealand as an international student:

  • You can apply directly to universities, most of which will offer application guidelines online (you can view application requirements for individual courses by searching specific Masters programmes in New Zealand).
  • Alternatively, students from the UK and Ireland can apply via Study Options. This is a free service, offering independent assistance and advice.

Application requirements

The most important part of your application for a New Zealand Masters degree will usually be proof of your existing qualifications or experience (as appropriate). In addition to these, you may need to submit:

  • Academic transcripts – Universities in New Zealand will need to see a certified transcript, detailing the modules you’ve studied and the grades you received for them. Your current or previous university should be able to prepare this for you upon request.
  • References – Not all courses will require references. If you are asked to provide some you should probably include statements from tutors, employers or other people with experience of you in an academic or professional context.
  • A personal statement – You’re most likely to be asked for a personal statement as part of your application to a professional development programme or a Masters by Research (where it may be associated with your project proposal).

Interviews

Interviews aren’t likely to be required for international Masters students in New Zealand (universities will appreciate that it’s rather a long way to travel!).

If your institution does want to chat to you during your application they will normally be happy to arrange a less formal interview over Skype or telephone.

Masters student visas in New Zealand

Universities in New Zealand welcome international applicants, but you will still need a visa to live and study in the country.

As an international Masters student you’ll need to apply for a specific student visa. You can study in New Zealand for up to three months on a standard visitor’s visa, but this won’t be long enough to complete a Masters degree.

Who doesn't need a visa to study in New Zealand?

You won’t need a visa to study abroad in New Zealand if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You hold a New Zealand passport (even if you have not lived there for a while – or have never lived there at all).
  • You are an Australian citizen.
  • You hold an unconditional permanent residence visa for Australia or New Zealand.

Other students will usually need to apply for a student visa. If you think exceptions may apply in your case you should contact Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

Requirements for a New Zealand student visa application

In order to successfully apply for a New Zealand student visa you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have been granted a place at a university in New Zealand on a course recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).
  • You must be studying full-time. Unfortunately it isn't possible to study part-time on an international student visa in New Zealand.
  • You must meet an acceptable standard of health. You will not normally be required to provide medical documents to prove this (unless the assessing officer at INZ asks for them) but you will need to sign a declaration to this effect.
  • You must be of good character, with no outstanding criminal convictions. If you are applying to study in New Zealand for more than two years, you will need to provide police clearances from your previous country(s) of residence.

In addition, you will need to meet the following requirements during your stay:

  • You must not exceed the working hours set by your visa. These are capped at 20 hours per week during term time and 40 hours per week during holidays.
  • You must maintain comprehensive health insurance for the duration of your degree (see below).

Applications process

You can apply for a New Zealand student visa online at the Immigration New Zealand website.

Or, if you are applying for admission to a New Zealand university from the UK or Ireland through Study Options, you can also lodge your student visa application through them.

In addition to your passport you will need to provide:

  • A completed application form.
  • Two passport-sized photos.
  • Proof that you have an unconditional offer of a place at a New Zealand university along with a receipt showing that you have paid the required deposit towards your tuition fees.
  • Evidence that you will be able to support yourself whilst studying in New Zealand, including proof of sufficient financial resources to cover living costs and a guarantee of suitable accommodation.

This is the minimum list of requirements – other documents might be asked for, depending on the requirements of your course.

Health insurance for international students in New Zealand

You’ll need to have valid health insurance for the duration of the time you spend studying a Masters abroad in New Zealand.

Your New Zealand university will have a preferred provider and will offer you the option of purchasing a policy when you accept your place.

This is usually the best way to go, as the policies have been designed to meet the strict requirements imposed by Immigration New Zealand. Very few international health insurance policies meet these standards and you should therefore budget for additional cover as one of your study abroad expenses.

Next steps

Your Masters degree will prepare you equally well for further study or employment - and both options may be available in New Zealand.

Can I work in New Zealand after my Masters?

As a New Zealand university graduate you may be able to apply for a post-study work visa to seek employment in the country. Further information is available from Immigration New Zealand.

Can I remain in New Zealand for further study after my Masters?

New Zealand offers excellent doctoral research opportunities and your Masters will be excellent preparation for these. Better yet, its universities don't charge any additional fees to international PhD students.

You can learn more about PhD study in New Zealand on our sister-site, FindAPhD.

Further information

If you’re looking for more information about other aspects of postgraduate study abroad in New Zealand, why not check out our guides to Masters fees and funding or our guide to student life?

Search for a Masters in New Zealand

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in New Zealand on FindAMasters.com.

Last updated - 08/03/2018

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