Providers and partners

Outcome from consultation on updating the definition of learning hours

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) consulted on updating the definition of notional learning hours, 15 May – 23 June 2017:


Notional learning hours include:

  • direct contact time with teachers and trainers (‘directed learning’)
  • time spent in studying, doing assignments, and undertaking practical tasks (‘self-directed’)
  • time spent in assessment.

Notional learning hours comprise:

  • all planned learning activities leading toward the achievement of programme or qualification learning outcomes

Sixty-two responses were received from 49 organisations and 13 individuals.

Approximately 72 per cent of respondents, comprising 40 tertiary education organisations (TEOs) and five individuals, supported the proposed update. Ten respondents did not support the change, and seven did not express a view.

For further information see the summary of consultation.

Questions from the consultation

Feedback showed that respondents were interested in understanding how the updated definition would be implemented, and what evidence (if any) will be required to meet compliance requirements. NZQA and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) are working together to address these questions.

For more information, see answers to questions from consultation.

NZQA’s decision and timeline

Following the positive feedback on the proposed change, NZQA has updated the definition. This will come into effect on 1 January 2018.

What this means for TEOs

The updated definition means TEOs will be required to provide details to learners of all learning activities in a programme, including self-directed learning activities, and to retain evidence of the activities for NZQA and TEC.

This will provide greater clarity to learners, i.e. what they are expected to do to meet the learning outcomes and the total learning hours of their programme. For many TEOs, who already provide these details and evidence, the updated definition will mean little change to current systems and processes.

The updated definition will better enable NZQA and the TEC to establish whether the total of learning hours, met by a typical student, approximates to the credit value of the programme.

One credit remains equivalent to 10 notional learning hours.

Next steps

Relevant documents (e.g. programme approval and accreditation Guidelines) are being revised to reflect the updated definition and the requirements that follow. The revised Guidelines will be available at the beginning of November 2017.

From 1 January 2018, all new programmes submitted for approval by NZQA will need to be written in accordance with the updated definition. Programmes currently in use will not need to be immediately updated. However, it is expected that as these programmes are reviewed, they will be amended to reflect the requirements of the updated definition.

The TEC is preparing guidelines for TEOs on how the new definition of learning hours will affect STEO entries and monitoring activities.

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