Providers and partners

English language entry requirements for international students

NZQA sets English language entry requirements for international students through the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013.

These requirements apply only to programmes leading to a qualification on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework – they do not apply to training schemes.

The requirements place responsibility on providers to ensure international students they enrol have an appropriate level of English proficiency for the level at which they intend to study.

Providers must maintain evidence that international students possess the appropriate level of English proficiency as part of their enrolment records.

Evidence of a student’s English proficiency can take a number of forms; for example:

  • Completion of NCEA level 3 and New Zealand university entrance requirements
  • Evidence that a student satisfies one of NZQA’s criteria for existing English proficiency (see criteria below)
  • An appropriate score on an international English proficiency test, such as IELTS, that has been included by NZQA in Appendix 2 of the rules.

In addition, providers in Category 1 as a result of external evaluation and review (EER) can enrol international students on the basis of internal English proficiency testing. Category 2 providers that have been granted approval by NZQA (see below) can also enrol international students on the basis of internal testing. Internal tests can only be used by Category 1 and 2 providers to assess the English proficiency of international students from countries with a student visa approval rate of at least 80 per cent.

Category 1 and 2 providers that have had their test approved by NZQA may also conduct internal testing of international students enrolling at other Category 1 and 2 providers, as long as those students are from countries with a student visa approval rate of at least 80 per cent.

NZQA has developed a guidance document explaining the different forms of evidence that providers in different categories can use when enrolling international students: Guidance on English language entry requirements (PDF, 202KB).

Further information

Further information is available at English language requirements for international students: questions and answers.

 Criteria for existing English proficiency

The following are the criteria for existing English proficiency that NZQA has listed for the purposes of rule 18.1(b) of the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013.

International students are permitted to provide their institution with clear evidence that they satisfy the criteria, and if they do so, they may be enrolled in a programme at or below the NZQF level to which the criteria relate.

1. Previous primary and secondary study in English

International students from countries with a student visa approval rate of at least 80 per cent that can provide clear evidence of either:

(a) completion of all primary education and at least three years of secondary education (that is, the equivalent of New Zealand Forms 3 to 7 or years 9 to 13), or
(b) completion of at least five years of secondary education (that is, the equivalent of New Zealand Forms 3 to 7 or years 9 to 13)

at schools using English as the language of instruction are eligible for enrolment at all levels of the NZQF.

2. Previous tertiary study in English

International students that can provide clear evidence of completion of a tertiary qualification of at least three years’ duration with English as the language of instruction in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the United States, are eligible for enrolment at all levels of the NZQF.

3. Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)

International students that can provide clear evidence of achievement of the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) are eligible for enrolment at all levels of the NZQF.

4. New Zealand Certificate in English Language (NZCEL)

International students that can provide clear evidence of completion of:

(a) NZCEL Level 3 with an endorsement of either General, Workplace or Academic are eligible for enrolment up to and including at NZQF level 4.

(b) NZCEL Level 4 with the Academic endorsement are eligible for enrolment up to and including at NZQF levels 6 and 7.

(c) NZCEL Level 5 with an endorsement of either Academic or Professional are eligible for enrolment at all levels of the NZQF.

Explanatory note to criterion 4: These NZCEL criteria are more permissive than those listed in the Table in Appendix 2 of the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013. Feedback from the sector was that some NZCEL criteria in the Table were too high, and after due consideration NZQA agreed that the above NZCEL levels are more appropriate. Accordingly, NZQA exercised its power under rule 18.1(b) to list the above NZCEL levels for international student entry into programmes at the specified NZQF levels.

NZQA approval of provider English proficiency assessments

Under rules 18.3 and 18.4 of the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013, NZQA may approve internal English proficiency assessments conducted by Category 1 and 2 providers.

Category 2 providers granted approval by NZQA of their internal English proficiency assessment are permitted to enrol international students on the basis of internal testing.

In addition, any provider with its internal English proficiency assessment approved by NZQA can also conduct testing of international students on behalf of other Category 1 and 2 providers.

Providers can only use internal English proficiency assessments for students from countries with a student visa approval rate of at least 80 per cent.

Note: Category 1 providers do not need NZQA approval of their internal English proficiency assessment when using it to enrol international students on their own programmes. Category 1 providers need only seek NZQA approval of their internal English proficiency assessment if they wish to use it to conduct testing on behalf of other providers.

However, in the event that a Category 1 provider’s application for approval of its internal English proficiency assessment is declined, NZQA may also take steps to restrict the provider’s ability to use internal assessment to enrol international students on its own programmes.

Where Category 1 providers are conducting internal assessment of international students without NZQA approval, NZQA expects that these providers will have appropriate expertise in English language assessment.

As such, rule 18.1(e) requires these providers to ensure, when enrolling international students on the basis of internal assessment, that students have achieved a score that is equivalent to or better than the English proficiency outcomes listed in Appendix 2 of the rules for the level at which the student is being enrolled.

Applying for approval of internal English proficiency assessments

Providers seeking approval of their internal English proficiency assessments should apply using the online application process (see instructions below).

Applications must include information that addresses the following criteria (from rule 18.4), allowing NZQA to be satisfied:

  • The institution possesses expertise in English language delivery and assessment, as evidenced through appropriate staff qualifications and relevant programme approvals, accreditations to provide approved programmes, or training scheme approvals.
  • The institution’s English proficiency assessment methodologies and process have been designed by a person with appropriate and relevant experience and expertise.
  • The assessment materials are of high quality. They are valid, reliable, fit for purpose, and conform to accepted principles of language assessment. They assess all four skills and are free from error. They are confidential and original to the provider. Several versions of each assessment module exist.   
  • The assessment methodologies and process have been benchmarked to establish the equivalency or better to the outcomes for the appropriate levels of the NZQF.
  • The institution has appropriate safeguards in place to prevent cheating or bias during the conduct of internal English proficiency assessments.  
  • The level of confidence NZQA can have  in the institution’s enrolment and assessment practices (QMS policies).
  • There are no current concerns over the quality of the institution’s provision of education, or over non-compliance issues relating to the institution, that NZQA considers detrimentally affect the institution’s ability to conduct English proficiency assessment and testing.

Submitting applications online:

  1. Select the LOGIN button in the top right corner of this web page.
  2. Select the appropriate organisation type and complete your login details.
  3. Choose 'TEO Applications'.
  4. Create an application.
  5. Select 'Other' – you may need to click 'More' to see the 'Other' option. This will take you to an application overview.
  6. Click on 'Contact details'. The contact details page will be pre-populated with your organisation’s contact details. You should make any changes necessary to ensure all details are appropriate for the application.
  7. On the application/request detail page complete the following field: Name: Internal English language proficiency assessment approval.
  8. Attach and upload documents to support your application in PDF format.
  9. Submit.

Providers with NZQA-approved English proficiency assessments

The following is a list of Category 1 and 2 providers that have had their internal English proficiency assessments approved by NZQA under rules 18.3 and 18.4.

These providers are able to conduct assessment of international students on behalf of other Category 1 and 2 providers.

MoE numberCompany nameLocation
8532 New Zealand Language Centres Auckland
8644 Crown Institute of Studies Limited Auckland
7539 UUNZ Institute of Business Ltd Auckland
7548 ICL Education Ltd Auckland
9244 Southern Lakes English College Queenstown
6015 Southern Institute of Technology Invercargill
6018 Waiariki Institute of Technology Rotorua
7647 New Zealand School of Education Ltd Auckland
7526 Global Education Group Ltd (trading as North Shore International Academy) North Shore City, Auckland
7805 Communications International Ltd (trading as Tasman International Academies) Auckland
7488 International College of Auckland Ltd Auckland
8530 Auckland Institute of Studies Ltd Auckland
7499 Imperial College of New Zealand Ltd Auckland
7682 Auckland Goldstar Institute Ltd Auckland
8657 Business College New Zealand Ltd Auckland
8544 Languages International Ltd Auckland
7530 National Institute of Education Auckland
7286 Edenz Colleges Ltd Auckland
7897 Universal Education Group Ltd Auckland
7480 The Campbell Institute - Capital Language Academy Wellington
7820 New Zealand Institute of Studies Auckland
8541 Canterbury College Ltd Christchurch
7554 Cornell Institute of Business and Technology Auckland
7387 AWI International Education Group Auckland

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