Providers and partners

English language requirements for international students: questions and answers

The following questions and answers address common queries relating to the English language entry requirements for international students set by NZQA.

The requirements are included in the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013.

For more advice or information, contact qaadmin@nzqa.govt.nz.

1. Do the English language entry requirements apply to all programmes?

The English language requirements apply to all programmes, other than English language programmes, that lead to qualifications listed at levels 3-10 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF).

A 'programme' is study or training that leads to a qualification on the NZQF – therefore, the English language entry requirements do not apply to training schemes.

For the avoidance of doubt, a programme that incorporates some English language components as well as other academic study is a non-English language programme. Thus it would be subject to the English language entry requirements.

Also note that the English language entry requirements do not apply where a programme is delivered in a language other than English.

2. Can international students take English proficiency assessments before arriving in New Zealand?

Yes. The majority of the English proficiency assessments approved by NZQA and included in Appendix 2 of the rules are international, third-party English tests that can be taken in many countries around the world.

Category 1 and 2 providers that are able to use internal English proficiency assessments for the purposes of enrolling international students may conduct assessments overseas, provided that there are appropriate processes in place to ensure the integrity and robustness of the assessment. Internal English proficiency assessments must not be used for students who hold passports from a country with a student visa decline rate of more than 20 per cent and apply to Immigration New Zealand for their first time student visa.

Where NZQA approves providers’ internal assessments, the approval process will include assessment of the safeguards in place to prevent cheating or bias.

3. If a student has already completed a non-English language qualification on the NZQF, can they enrol in a programme at a higher level without taking another English proficiency assessment?

International students must satisfy the English language entry requirements for every programme in which they enrol.

This means they must either:

  • Demonstrate they are already proficient in English – by having achieved NCEA level 3 and New Zealand university entrance, or by satisfying one of the criteria for existing English proficiency listed on NZQA’s website under rule 18.1(b)
  • Or achieve the required score on an approved English proficiency assessment.

In some cases, international students that have previously completed a qualification on the NZQF will satisfy the criteria for existing English proficiency that are listed on NZQA’s website.

However, where the student’s previous study does not satisfy any of the criteria for existing English proficiency, they must achieve the required score on an approved English proficiency assessment before enrolling at a higher level of the NZQF.

Internal English proficiency assessments must not be used for students who hold passports from a country with a student visa decline rate of more than 20 per cent and apply to Immigration New Zealand for their first time student visa.

4. Where can I find the criteria for existing English proficiency referred to in rule 18.1(b)?

These criteria are listed on NZQA’s English language entry requirements web page.

5. Can students pathway into my non-English language programme based on English language study or assessment undertaken with another provider, such as an English language school?

Yes. Category 1 and 2 providers may enrol international students on the basis of assessment conducted by other providers, including English language schools, where the other provider is either Category 1 or 2 and has had its internal English proficiency assessment approved by NZQA.

Further information about the approval process for providers’ internal English proficiency assessments is available on NZQA’s English language entry requirements web page.

In addition, Category 1 providers are able to enrol international students on the basis of internal assessment, without seeking approval of this assessment from NZQA.

Some Category 1 providers have formed pathway agreements with English language schools where their internal assessment involves confirming that study or assessment previously undertaken at the English language school has prepared the international student for enrolment on the relevant non-English language programme. This arrangement between Category 1 providers does not require approval by NZQA.

Whenever internal English proficiency assessments are used, the enrolling provider must have ensured that the outcome achieved by the international student is equivalent to or better than the required scores set by NZQA for the approved English proficiency assessments in Appendix 2 of the rules.

Internal English proficiency assessments must not be used for students who hold passports from a country with a student visa decline rate of more than 20 per cent and apply to Immigration New Zealand for their first time student visa.

6. My desired programme includes content at more than one level of the NZQF – what score must I achieve on an approved English proficiency assessment?

Students must meet the required score on an English proficiency assessment that is relevant to the highest level of study involved in their programme. For example, if a programme incorporates study at both levels 5 and 6 of the NZQF, students must meet the required scores for enrolling in a programme at level 6.

This ensures that international students have demonstrated that they are capable of understanding and engaging with all content of the programme in which they are enrolling.

7. Can students combine multiple IELTS scores together to meet the required standard?

As noted in Appendix 2 of the rules, IELTS scores used as evidence that international students meet the English language entry requirements must be taken from a single IELTS Test Report Form. As such, combining or 'clubbing' multiple IELTS results is not acceptable.

The need to combine IELTS results implies that although one aspect of a student’s score may have improved in their most recent test, another aspect of the student’s score has deteriorated – otherwise only the most recent test result would be used.

As such, the need to club test results indicates that a student is not yet capable of maintaining the overall level of English proficiency required to be successful at a particular level of the NZQF.

8. Why don’t these requirements apply to universities?

Despite setting the requirements for programme approval and accreditation across the tertiary education sector, NZQA does not hold legislative responsibility for the quality assurance of universities.

Universities New Zealand holds this responsibility, and information about the English language entry requirements for studying at a New Zealand university can be found on the Admission Requirements for International Students page of the Universities New Zealand website.

9. I am aware of providers that are enrolling international students without ensuring they have satisfied the English language entry requirements. What should I do?

Please pass on as much detailed information as possible to NZQA’s Risk unit, at qadrisk@nzqa.govt.nz.

NZQA will investigate any allegations of non-compliance with English language entry requirements.

NZQA can require providers to supply evidence that students have demonstrated that, at the time of enrolment, they had met criteria for existing English proficiency or achieved the required score on an approved English proficiency assessment.

NZQA will take appropriate and commensurate action should non-compliance be identified.

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