NZQA's quality assurance system for tertiary education organisations

NZQA operates an integrated quality assurance system where all the components support each other.

This quality assurance system is based on the Evaluative Quality Assurance Framework (EQAF). It covers all of the tertiary education sector, except universities.

In making quality assurance decisions we:

  • use an evaluative approach to reach well-informed, consistent and reliable evidence-based judgements about the performance and capability of each organisation
  • focus on outcomes and the key processes that contribute to them
  • ask each organisation to undertake self-assessment, build awareness and engage in continuous improvement.

The four components of EQAF

There are four components of the quality assurance system, and they all inform each other:

  • entry processes
  • maintaining quality
  • external evaluation and review
  • managing risk.


Tertiary education organisations use self-assessment at every stage to maintain and improve their own quality and the outcomes they achieve for their learners and wider stakeholders (especially employers).

Self-assessment is embedded in and integral to every process. Information from self-assessment provides evidence for all the quality assurance processes.

What is self-assessment?

Self-assessment focuses on:

  • identifying, responding to and meeting learner and stakeholder needs
  • evaluating the effectiveness of the organisation’s processes and practices
  • using the understanding you gain to make real, worthwhile improvements to outcomes and learner achievement.

How do I do self-assessment?

NZQA does not prescribe how tertiary education organisations do self-assessment, as every organisation is different.

Instead NZQA provides evaluation indicators as a common guide for TEOs and NZQA to reach consistent evidence-based judgements.

Te Hono o Te Kahurangi

Tertiary education organisations can request Te Hono o Te Kahurangi (THoTK) quality assurance if they deliver qualifications or programmes based on Mātauranga Māori or if the whole organisational approach is based on Mātauranga Māori.

THoTK is integrated into all parts of the quality assurance framework. It uses evaluative approaches NZQA developed with the sector.

For more information and the guidelines see Te Hono o Te Kahurangi quality assurance.

Entry processes

Registration as a private training establishment

A private training establishment must be registered with NZQA to develop, deliver or use qualifications listed on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) and standards listed on the Directory of Assessment Standards.

The registration process ensures that the PTE meets all legislative requirements for an educational organisation, including NZQA rules.

The PTE must have:

  • governing members who are suitable for delivering education
  • adequate staff, and equipment and facilities for the education it plans to deliver
  • financial stability with sound quality management systems and practices.

Listing of qualifications on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF)

NZQA lists New Zealand qualifications at levels 1-6 on the NZQF that have:

  • defined outcomes
  • a clear purpose
  • a profile of what graduates can do, be and know.

Approval of programmes at levels 1-6 on the NZQF

NZQA approves programmes at levels 1-6 that:

  • lead to a qualification listed on the NZQF
  • have a structure and components that allow learners to achieve the graduate profile
  • have an appropriate NZQF level, credit value and amount of learning
  • are designed to meet the specific identified needs of learners
  • shows a progression of knowledge and skills
  • shows how the learning outcomes will be assessed.

Which organisations can apply for approval of a programme?

The following organisations can apply for an approved programme:

  • Te Pūkenga and its subsidiaries
  • wānanga
  • private training establishments
  • government training establishments
  • relevant schools
  • other bodies.

Transitional industry training organisations (transitional ITOs) can apply for approval of programmes of industry training and can make arrangements for the delivery of these programmes. However, transitional ITOs cannot directly deliver them.

Organisations need programme accreditation to deliver the approved programme (see below).

Accreditation to deliver programmes

NZQA grants accreditation to deliver a programme when the TEO shows NZQA that they can deliver the programme as approved: i.e. adequate staff, equipment and facilities.

Sometimes NZQA visits the tertiary education organisation as part of this process.

Approval of degree programmes at levels 7-10 on the NZQF

NZQA approves degree programmes (at levels 7-10 on the NZQF) if they have appropriate:

  • learning outcomes and content
  • delivery methods
  • equipment
  • facilities
  • staff
  • regulations
  • assessment and moderation.

Degree programmes must also be taught mainly by staff engaged in research.

Which organisations can apply for approval of a degree programme?

The following organisations can apply for a degree programme:

  • Te Pūkenga and its subsidiaries
  • wānanga
  • private training establishments.

Who looks at the application?

A panel evaluates applications for degree programmes.

These people have the necessary skills and knowledge to advise the tertiary education organisation and NZQA about the quality of the application.

Approval of training schemes

NZQA approves training schemes if they are genuinely needed by learners and stakeholders.

Training schemes:

  • are smaller than programmes
  • must have a coherent structure that allows learners to achieve the learning outcomes
  • must have an appropriate NZQF level
  • must incorporate sufficient learning to demonstrate a progression of knowledge.

Approving micro-credentials

NZQA approves micro-credentials when the TEO shows the content is:

  • described using a statement of purpose and clear learning outcomes
  • needed by industry, employers, iwi and/or the community
  • not covered by any quality assured learning approved by NZQA (i.e. qualification listed on the NZQF or training scheme)
  • assessed using methods that provide fair, valid, consistent and appropriate assessment of achievement.

Micro-credentials are smaller than qualifications (i.e. 5-40 credits each) and focus on skill development in areas not currently covered in the tertiary education system.

TEOs must review micro-credentials annually to make sure they are still needed.

Consent to assess against standards on the Directory of Assessment Standards

NZQA grants consent to assess against assessment standards on the Directory of Assessment Standards when the TEO that is applying:

  • has support from the relevant standard setting body
  • meets the requirements associated with the standards.

Sometimes the standard setting body makes a site visit as part of this process.

Further information

For information on tertiary consent to assess see the consent to assess page.

For information on secondary school consent to assess see the secondary school consent to assess page.

Maintaining quality

Consistency of graduate outcomes for New Zealand qualifications at levels 1-6 on the NZQF

Consistency of graduate outcomes provides assurance that graduates completing different programmes towards the same qualification are achieving the qualification outcomes at an equivalent level.

  • This process applies to New Zealand qualifications listed on the NZQF at levels 1-6.
  • All TEOs awarding New Zealand qualifications at levels 1-6 must participate in consistency reviews.

What is a consistency review?

The reviews, facilitated by an independent reviewer, consider the quality of the evidence each tertiary education organisation presents.

The review decides if there is enough evidence to show that each organisation’s graduates have met the agreed threshold and that the national consistency of the qualification can be confirmed.

NZQA oversees and quality assures the results of all the consistency reviews.

National external moderation of NZQA-developed unit standards

National external moderation ensures that organisations using NZQA-managed assessment standards are making assessor judgements consistent with the national standard.

How does national external moderation work?

NZQA selects standards for moderation based on:

  • TEO history
  • risk
  • high use
  • identified issues with the standards.

Moderators look at samples of learner work sent in by TEOs and assess if the judgements are consistent with the national standard.

NZQA recommends changes to assessment materials or moderation practice when NZQA does not verify assessor judgements.

NZQA follows up with TEOs to make sure they address the issues.

Monitoring programmes at levels 1-6 and level 7 diplomas on the NZQF

After a programme is approved, NZQA may carry out a programme monitoring activity to ensure it is being delivered as approved.

This is to ensure that organisations with accreditation continue to meet the requirements in the NZQA rules.

For more information about the monitoring process see NZQA’s approach to programme monitoring at levels 1-6 and level 7 diplomas.

Monitoring of degree programmes at levels 7-10 on the NZQF

After a degree programme at NZQF level 7 and above is approved, NZQA appoints an independent monitor for the degree. This degree monitoring ensures that the programme continues to meet NZQA Rules and criteria.

Some TEOs may be able to self-monitor.

What happens during monitoring?

NZQA visits the TEO to review the delivery and assessment of the degree programme. NZQA reviews the degree programme against NZQA Rules and criteria.

After the visit, NZQA summarises the outcomes of programme monitoring in a report that comments on how well the delivery and assessment meets each criterion.

The report also identifies any rule breaches.

External evaluation and review

External evaluation and review (EER) uses key questions directly addressing achievement, outcomes and key contributing processes to judge the quality of a tertiary education organisation (TEO).

EERs produce evidence-based conclusions about the relative quality and performance of the TEO.

How does an EER work?

The scope of an EER is designed to provide a representative sample of a TEO’s provision.

Immediately before an EER, NZQA gathers information on the TEO from multiple sources.

Then NZQA evaluates the TEO’s overall quality. This step usually involves a site visit, which may be conducted online or at the site.

In a report published on its website, NZQA states its level of confidence in the TEO’s educational performance and its capability in self-assessment.

These statements of confidence combine to make a provider category for the TEO.

What is a provider category?

Each organisation is placed in one of four categories of capability:

Category 1

Highly Confident in educational performance and Highly Confident or Confident in self-assessment

Category 2

Confident in educational performance and Confident or Highly Confident in self-assessment

Category 3

Not Yet Confident in either educational performance or self-assessment

Category 4

Not Confident in either educational performance or self-assessment

For more information about the effects of provider categories see the Provider categories page.

Managing risk

NZQA collects information on organisations from NZQA’s quality assurance processes (e.g. external evaluation and review, applications, visits) and concerns raised by students, staff, and other government organisations.

NZQA assesses whether there is a risk to students or a breach of legislative requirements and takes action to address these.

NZQA's actions can include:

  • working with providers to ensure they are taking corrective actions
  • imposing conditions on accreditation or registration with the agreement of a provider
  • issuing compliance notices
  • withdrawing consent to assess, accreditation or approval
  • cancelling registration, or
  • legal action for breaches of the Education and Training Act 2020.
Skip to main page content Accessibility page with list of access keys Home Page Site Map Contact Us