Factsheet # 12: How are NCEA results recognised overseas?

Download this Factsheet (PDF, 98KB)


New Zealand’s education system is world-leading as recognised by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

A number of international agreements ensure NCEA results are understood and accepted overseas. NZQA is part of the National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC) network. NARIC is consulted by tertiary providers and deals with academic recognition of diplomas and periods of study in the member states of the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Central and Eastern Europe.

NCEA results are used to calculate the International Tertiary Admission Ranking System (ITARS).This ensures a unified approach when New Zealand school leavers apply for entry to foreign universities.

Comments from the sector

"If you look good here, you can look good in the United States, but you need to be able to make your case.You need to understand that Merit and Excellence results are not A and B grades in American terms – in effect they are both A grades. You need to be able to show how high you come in national rankings and there are ways to do that. NZQA can help and of course Scholarship results are brilliant for this purpose – you can easily prove you are in the top few percent in New Zealand."

Professor Jeff Smith, University of Otago Formerly Associate Dean of Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA

Equivalency arrangements

NZQA has equivalency arrangements with many countries. Including:


  • NCEA Level 3 is recognised as broadly equivalent to Senior Secondary Certificates of Education.
  • NCEA Level 3 results are used in the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank for entrance to all Australian universities.
  • When an application is received from a New Zealand school leaver, the Australian Tertiary Admission Centres contact NZQA directly. Results are sent from early January each year.


  • NCEA Level 3 is recognised as broadly equivalent to General Certificate of Education (GCE) A-Level.
  • NCEA is listed in the International Qualifications for Entry to Higher Education published annually by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).This reference guide is used by UK tertiary providers to evaluate school leaving qualifications. It is also used by other countries as an authoritative guide.


  • Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the German states have recommended that German universities accept NCEA results.
  • German entry requirements are similar to New Zealand’s but require results in at least five subjects.


  • NARIC recognises that University Entrance and NCEA Level 3 (with Merits/Excellences in subjects to be studied at higher education institutions) is comparable to those with the overall GCE Advanced standard.


  • Students completing high school qualifications outside Thailand need a Matthayom 6 equivalence certificate, issued by Thailand’s Bureau of Educational Testing (BET).
  • NZQA and BET have agreed on equivalence criteria for NCEA (largely based on NCEA Level 2).


  • The Association of Indian Universities recognises NCEA Level 3 as equivalent to its university entrance requirement.

New Zealand's international connections have been reinforced in recent years.

  • In 2008 NZQA joined the network established by UNESCO and the Council of Europe to improve the international recognition of qualifications.
  • NZQA is now New Zealand’s National Education Information Centre, providing information and advice on the New Zealand education system, secondary and tertiary qualifications, and recognition of overseas qualifications.

The learning experience

"Almost 100% of our students enter tertiary education, many are awarded national scholarships and many are accepted for competitive courses such as law and health sciences. A growing number are travelling overseas to university and have no trouble gaining entry. NCEA is an excellent qualification and offers a seamless transition to tertiary education."

Margaret van Meeuwen,Assistant Principal, Diocesan School for Girls,Auckland

"Students from St Cuthbert’s College have been accepted at leading international universities such as Yale, Duke, Brown, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Melbourne. Larissa Eruera (Y12) has won a full scholarship to Arizona University. Sarah Henderson to Pennsylvania State University. Abigail Guthrie to the University of Mississippi.

“Girls leaving St Cuthbert’s College in 2010 were accepted at Aston University, Birmingham; King’s College London; University of Melbourne; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; University of Sydney; Griffith University, Brisbane; Maharishi University of Management, Iowa; New York Film Academy; and Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts."

Website of St Cuthbert’s College, June 2011

The learning experience

Skip to main page content Accessibility page with list of access keys Home Page Site Map Contact Us newzealand.govt.nz