Our role in international education

One of NZQA’s responsibilities is to improve the international recognition, understanding and portability of New Zealand qualifications overseas.

The contexts of our international work

We help maintain and build on New Zealand’s reputation as a high-quality education provider, and increase the portability of qualifications gained here. This makes New Zealand a more attractive place for students to come and study.

The New Zealand export education industry is worth more than NZ$2.8 billion. This market is an increasingly important growth area of the New Zealand economy. Our international programme of work supports this growth.

We work closely with other government agencies such as Education New Zealand (ENZ), the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and they support us in our work.


  • provide support, as required, for trade negotiations involving qualification recognition
  • implement the qualifications recognition commitments in signed free trade agreements
  • provide advice and support to Pacific Island nations, to help them develop their qualifications frameworks and quality assurance processes
  • improve understanding and recognition of qualifications.

Our place in a global world

Our qualifications framework (NZQF) is world-leading. New Zealand was one of the first five countries in the world to develop a framework, in the 1990s.

We work closely with countries around the world to increase its comparability with the qualifications frameworks of our key immigration partner countries, and to support recognition of qualifications in these partner countries.

In a burgeoning global labour market, qualifications that are more portable between countries are increasingly important.

Making it easier to understand and recognise qualifications worldwide

The main aim of all of our referencing and recognition projects is to make it easier to understand and recognise each other’s qualifications. Through this work, NZQA and our partner agencies in the other country develop close working relationships, and establish trust in each other’s systems.

Ultimately, this makes it easier for people to get their qualifications recognised so they can work and study in different countries.

How our referencing and recognition projects affect you

The results of our projects will help:

  • NZQA to make decisions on individual qualifications recognition
  • educational institutions to make enrolment decisions
  • employers to make employment decisions
  • New Zealanders travelling overseas to have their qualifications recognised
  • international students studying here then returning overseas to have their qualifications recognised
  • educational institutions to have their qualifications more easily recognised overseas.

Improving qualifications recognition: Agreements and arrangements with other countries

New Zealand has, and is working towards, formal agreements and arrangements with other countries and groups of countries.

Agreements – joining already-established Conventions and Treaties, agreeing to be bound by existing commitments

Arrangements – individually negotiated, detailed procedure has been worked out between NZQA and its counterpart agencies  

See General qualification recognition agreements to read more about our agreements.

See Country-specific qualification recognition arrangements to read more about our arrangements.

Recognising qualifications

‘Qualifications recognition’ or ‘recognition of qualifications’ is when a country accepts a qualification gained overseas as comparable to a qualification gained in their own country. They are officially recognised for purposes such as employment or admittance to further education.

Recognition can be for:

  • specific qualifications (for example, NCEA in Germany, Thailand)
  • a qualification type (for example, Bachelor’s degrees in Malaysia)
  • a group of qualifications (for example, vocational qualifications in China)
  • parts of frameworks, whole frameworks, and meta-frameworks (for example, Australia, Europe).

Recognition across whole frameworks is called ‘referencing’, ‘aligning’ or ‘alignment’. Referencing is not at the individual qualification level; it is at the whole-systems level.

NCEA recognition

NCEA recognition is an example of recognition of a specific qualification.

For example, New Zealand’s school leaver qualification, NCEA, is recognised in Thailand for entrance to university study.

You will need to follow the specific requirements for the country you want to use your qualification in.

For details of NCEA recognition, see International recognition of NCEA.

Referencing frameworks

‘Referencing’ is the term we use when we are looking at whole qualifications frameworks. It means comparing closely the frameworks of two or more countries, to determine where a qualification from one framework would fit in the other framework.

The end goal is to make it easier and more efficient for people to get their qualifications recognised so they can work and study overseas. Referencing improves the basis for recognition of qualifications.

An example of this is referencing New Zealand’s framework to Australia’s framework.

‘Referencing’ is also called ‘aligning’ or ‘alignment’.

For more about our current projects in both qualification recognition and framework referencing, see the ‘General recognition agreements’ and ‘Country-specific recognition arrangements’ pages, in the links to the left.

New Zealand is currently referencing the NZQF to frameworks in the European Union and Hong Kong and has completed referencing with the Australian Qualifications Framework.

See the European Union, Australia and Hong Kong pages to read more about our work.

The method we use for referencing frameworks

We use a method based on the European Commission’s (EC’s) method, adapted for our particular framework. We are guided and advised in our referencing work by the New Zealand Advisory Group, which comprises representatives from across the New Zealand education sector.

Click to read more about the New Zealand Advisory Group.

National Education Information Centre (NEIC)

NZQA has been designated by the EU as New Zealand’s National Education Information Centre.

NEIC provides information and advice on the New Zealand education system, overseas education systems, New Zealand qualifications, and recognition of overseas qualifications.

This is part of our commitment to the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

Click to read more about the National Education Information Centre.

Contact us

For more information, or to give us feedback, please email us at:

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