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Guide To The Best Universities In New Zealand For Local + International Students

Looking to expand your educational horizons by enrolling in one of the top-ranked universities in the world?  New Zealand is no stranger to quality university education. Consisting of a population of only five million, it is fascinating to see some universities in New Zealand securing top spots out there amongst the biggest universities ranked in the Times of Higher Education/QS World University Ranking.

New Zealand’s universities for medicine, law and engineering are highly respected and well-reputed amongst international education and academic communities. With more than 117,225 international students enrolled at the tertiary level of education in 2018, here’s a quick resource to the top universities in New Zealand along with admission requisites offering internationally acclaimed Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees for aspiring students.

Top universities in New Zealand

1. The University of Auckland

#1 in New Zealand, #81 in the world (2022)

The University of Auckland tops the list with the largest size of land area, comprehensiveness and consistent ranking by global standards. Established in 1883 as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, it is now the country’s largest university by enrolment, with more than 40,000 students spread across five of its campuses.

The University offers plenty of majors to specialise in, famously including Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Management, Life Sciences and Medicines, Engineering and Technology, and Natural Sciences. So, if you’ve got a knack for pursuing any of the life science subjects through an untraditional method of teaching, the University of Auckland would be the best choice for you.

International students are at the heart of the University of Auckland, constituting 32 percent of the student population. There are over 8,000 international students hailing from 120 countries, of which are predicted to increase in the upcoming years as the university has launched its ‘Diversity Agenda’ initiative.

For international students, the tuition fee for individual programmes vary, ranging from $33,000 to $81,000 for 120 credit points, estimated for 2022. The fees are also subject to change every academic year, depending on whether you qualify for scholarships and financial aid. However, apart from the tuition fees, you’d also have to consider other expenses – such as visa application fees – to estimate the complete cost of studying at the University of Auckland.

2. University of Otago

#2 in New Zealand, #184 in the world (2022)

Another public university with a very high research output is the University of Otago. This university ranks at number two in the country and just below the top 200 universities of the world. It was founded around 30 years later after the University of Auckland, in 1869, and enjoys some of the most beautiful campuses amongst all universities in New Zealand. The Scottish-influenced architecture, expansive grounds and research-led atmosphere make it a coveted choice for both domestic and foreign students. The University enjoys an active enrolment of around 22,500 students who choose to spend the next four years studying one of its well-renowned fields of education. 

The University of Otago is particularly popular for Health Sciences and offers undergraduate and doctoral programmes in the field. The interesting bit is that it has exchange partnership programmes with approximately 90 university campuses globally, cementing their openness to diversity and international students. The main campus hosts 3,585 international students with an affordable fee plan: around $14,000 annually for undergraduates and $18,000 for Masters. 

The university’s urban campus is located in Dunedin and sports a teaching staff of more than 1,300 specialists with a large number of foreigners. If it interests you, the university’s alumni include the famous medical researcher Muriel Bell, mountaineer Burke and astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, to name a few.

3. Victoria University of Wellington

#3 in New Zealand, #236 in the world (2022)

Established in 1897 by the Act of Parliament and also a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington is a public university located in Wellington, famous for its high research impact and excellent range of programmes. All departments at Victoria University of Wellington are top-notch in academic performance, quality maintenance and vocational training.

Students from all over the world and New Zealand enrol into this University to study its amazing disciplines of law, humanities, social sciences as well scientific studies such as Psychology, Engineering, and Computer Sciences, as well as Business.

A University Council, consisting of 20 members, supervises the day-to-day governance, having formed after the election of members from a range of committees including the academic staff, student union executives, Minister of Education and the Vice-Chancellor, to name a few. It is also only one of the three institutes to offer a degree in Architecture in New Zealand.

Victoria University of Wellington finds its strength in diversity and inclusion, boasting an ethnically diverse student population of over 90 cultures and 200 languages. It has more than 3,500 international students and a wide range of tuition fees for varying subjects. Typically, the fee band is between $29,000 and $39,000 for international students.

4. University of Canterbury

#4 in New Zealand, #258 in the world (2022)

The University of Canterbury is situated in Christchurch and is the second oldest university in the country. It gives tough competition to its peers who are ranked higher with world-class research facilities and output, an inspirational and competitive teaching environment, as well as a beautiful, vibrant campus.

The university’s student population stands at roughly 17,300, out of which more than 1,870 are international students, according to the UC Annual Report of 2019. If you’re into engineering and want to pursue it from amongst the best universities of New Zealand – or the world, for that matter – the University of Canterbury’s Civil Engineering programme is ranked 9th in the world. Therefore, it is particularly famous for its Engineering and Science departments awarding undergraduate and graduate degrees and diplomas. The Bachelor’s degree for Engineering with Honours costs $45,000 for 120 points, estimated for 2022.

5. Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

#8 in New Zealand, #451 in the world (2022)

Formerly a technical college that has been granted the status of a university, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) comes at number three on our list – although it is ranked eighth country-wide. The university has one of the largest populations of international students – precisely 8,926 students across its three campuses. The main and largest campus is located in Auckland, whereas the other two campuses, located in the North and South, can be reached via shuttle bus. The tuition fee for international students at the Auckland University of Technology varies with each programme, tentatively a range between $16,000 to $49,000 per year, exclusive of other expenses. For domestic students, however, it is below $10,000 for every major.

AUT is particularly famous for Clinical Medicine for it ranks amongst the top 150 clinical medicine universities of the world. Country-wide, AUT is well-renowned for its research influence and international collaboration amongst all universities in New Zealand. There is a healthy student-life balance; a fortnightly student magazine is produced by the university’s student association with a full-time editor and student contributors. The student association also supports affiliated clubs and organizes events.

Things to remember for university admissions in New Zealand

1. Entry requirements

Fortunately, all eight universities in New Zealand are within the top three percent of QS World University Rankings, which means whichever your choice, your school is going to rank well, globally. To help you out with the admission criteria, we have provided a go-to shortcut for admission requisites in all universities in New Zealand for (undergraduate) international students.

  • All applicants must hold an acceptable university entrance qualification. The following (international) qualifications are valid.
    • International Baccalaureate Diploma with a minimum of 24 points
    • CIE Advanced Level with a minimum numerical score of 8.
    • Northern Consortium United Kingdom (NCUK) International Foundation Year (IFY)
    • National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)
  • English proficiency test meeting minimal required IELTS score – 6.5 overall, with no band below 6.0.
  • Health and travel insurance.
  • A valid student visa.

2. Timeline

You must always refer to the University’s official website to check deadlines because application dates differ per school. First semesters usually start in February/March, which leads to the closing of admission in October, November or December.

The second semester starts in July, which also opens for admissions, and the deadlines fall in March, April or May.

3. Scholarships

New Zealand offers international scholarships to students belonging to a list of countries generated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can find more information about it here and may also find many other scholarships on this link.

The University of Auckland International Student Excellence Scholarship is a well-renowned scholarship program for its international students from all countries. It also offers the University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarships for PhD international students.

Studying in New Zealand is an excellent choice, given it has the safest studying environment, premium quality, world-class education, and affordable tuition fee structure. The application process is also relatively straightforward.

So, do it fast. Assess your options for fields of study and send in your application to any of the eight universities in the country – whichever you’ll land in, know that you’ll be studying amongst the three percent of QS World University Ranking, anyway!

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