Review of New Zealand Certificates in English Language

New Zealand Certificates in English Language (NZCEL) qualifications are nationally recognised qualifications intended for learners of English as an additional language. These qualifications are available to all parts of the English Language sector: secondary, tertiary, community, and for permanent and temporary residents, and international students.

Current developments

In response to NZCEL sector consultation feedback in November 2016, a review panel has proposed changes to the NZCEL qualifications. For more information, see:

In February 2017, nine proposed NZCEL qualifications from Foundation (Level 1) - Level 5 were submitted to the NZQA quality assurance team for evaluation and approval.

Draft NZCEL qualifications are:

Development of a NZCEL guiding document

A document is currently being developed to support programme designers, teachers and assessors of NZCEL qualifications. This document will provide guidance to teachers and assessors to ensure consistency in assessment of NZCEL graduate profile outcomes. Guidance will include:

  • Conditions related to the assessment of reading, writing, listening and speaking skills
  • Sufficiency statements to indicate text types, text length, vocabulary level
  • Language skill and control descriptors for each NZCEL qualification level
  • Relevant website links e.g. English Language descriptors/frameworks.

NZCEL related unit standards reviews

English Language unit standards - To ensure that there is a suite of unit standards suitable for those who wish to use them as assessment tools in programmes towards NZCEL, NZQA will conduct a review of the English Language standards in April 2017. Applications for review panelists are now invited. For more information, see the web page for Review of English Language unit standards.

English for Academic Purposes unit standards are mandatory in the proposed New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Academic) (Level 4). The review of these standards is underway. For more information, see the web page for Review of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) unit standards.


Review of New Zealand Certificates in English Language

NZQA National Qualifications Services (NQS) is reviewing English Language qualifications to ensure that they are fit for purpose and align to the listing requirements within the Guidelines for the review of qualifications at levels 1 to 6 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (PDF, 1.6MB).

The qualifications being reviewed are:

New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Foundation) (Level 1) [Ref:1879]

New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Level 1) [Ref:1880]

New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Level 2) [Ref:1881]

New Zealand Certificate in English Language (General/Workplace/Academic)(Level 3) [Ref:1882]

New Zealand Certificate in English Language (General/Workplace/Academic) (Level 4) [Ref:1883]

New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Professional/Academic) (Level 5) [Ref:1884]

The review process is following the principles underpinning qualifications at Levels 1-6 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework – namely strategic and needs based, practical focus on outcomes, flexibility and mutual trust and accountability.

This review is being conducted in collaboration with the sector. Every opportunity will be provided for NZCEL programme providers and all interested stakeholders to engage and be kept fully informed of progress and decisions as the review progresses.

Establishment of NZCEL review panel

Following a call for applications in July 2016 for review panellists, eight people were chosen for their technical skills and knowledge, and their link to the sector they represent. This direct line of contact will enable panellists to actively consult with their networks to ensure sector views are considered in decision-making.

The review panel comprises representation from:

  • Peak body organisations: Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand (TESOLANZ), NZCEL Providers Forum and English New Zealand
  • Private training establishments
  • Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics
  • Secondary schools
  • Community English Language providers
  • Auckland University
  • NZQA Assessment and Moderation – national moderator for English Language unit standards.

Approach to the review

A three phase model is being adopted to provide a platform on which development can occur, and to ensure that there is dialogue throughout the review process, and data to inform dialogue and decision making. An underpinning premise of this model is that stakeholder endorsement is gained for any changes made as a result of the review.

Phase 1: Scoping the review

The collection, analysis, summary and distribution of data (qualitative and quantitative) to confirm need, consider any design issues (including meeting current listing requirements) and/or identify any barriers to uptake.

Early-engagement through communication and dialogue with stakeholders to ensure they are: (a) aware the review is underway; and (b) are included in the review and have the opportunity to feed into the collection of data.

Engagement included:

  • A survey to seek feedback on currently listed NZCEL qualifications.
  • A National Qualifications Services (NQS) workshop at the CLESOL 2016 July Conference, the biggest meeting of ESOL secondary and tertiary practitioners. The purpose of this workshop was to inform, consult and involve participants in discussions on structure, design, level and content of the qualifications. The information collected was presented to the review panel for consideration.

Targeted consultation/communication with relevant government agencies and stakeholder groups, as required.

Phase 2: Facilitating the review

Establishment of a review panel with the technical expertise and subject knowledge to review the qualifications.

Sector consultation on the reviewed qualifications and the communication of the results.

Phase 3: Quality assurance

Submission of the proposed qualifications to NZQA Approvals and Accreditation.

Communicate the outcome of the Quality Assurance.

Related Information

Programme approval and accreditation

Providers must be accredited and have programmes leading to NCZEL qualifications approved by NZQA. This confirms that programmes leading to a qualification listed on the NZQF are aligned with qualification outcome statements and are based on clear and consistent aims, content and assessment practices.

English language entry requirements

Award of the NZCEL can be used to meet the English Proficiency Outcomes for International Students for whom English is not their First Language. They are outlined in the "Table" for English Proficiency Outcomes for International Students.

Review documents - quick links

If you wish to receive email updates, and/or make contact regarding the NZCEL review, English Language or English for Academic Purposes unit standards, please email

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