Providers and partners

English language entry requirements for international students

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) sets English language entry requirements for international students through the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013 and the Training Scheme Rules 2012.

The requirements place responsibility on providers to ensure international students they enrol have the appropriate level of English proficiency for the level at which they intend to study.

Providers must maintain evidence that international students possess the appropriate level of English proficiency as part of their enrolment records for at least two years from the date of enrolment.

NZQA has developed guidance to assist providers in applying the English language requirements: Acceptable evidence of English language proficiency (PDF, 130KB).

See NZQA approval of English proficiency assessments for information on the NZQA approval process for internal English language proficiency assessments by Category 1 and 2 providers, as well as a list of approved providers.

Frequently asked questions

The following questions and answers address common queries relating to the English language entry requirements for international students.

1. Do the English language entry requirements apply to all programmes?

The English language requirements apply to all programmes, other than English language programmes, that lead to qualifications listed at levels 3-10 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF).

For the purpose of Rule 18, NZQA deems an English language programme to be one that delivers learning and teaching of English language skills to learners who have English as their additional language. The programme would focus on delivery and assessment of all four skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

English language qualifications listed on the NZQF are the New Zealand Certificates in English Language (Levels 1-5).

For the avoidance of doubt, a programme that incorporates some English language components as well as other academic study is a non-English language programme. Thus it would be subject to the English language entry requirements.

2. Do the English language entry requirements apply to training schemes?

From 18 August 2017, the English language requirements also apply to the enrolment of international students in training schemes at level 3 or higher.

However, the requirements do not apply to training schemes where the student’s employer has organised, paid for or required the training.

3. The English language requirements set out in the Rules are lower than our own entry criteria. Which should I apply?

Where the entry requirements for a programme are higher than those listed in Rule 18, the student must meet the higher level required by the provider. The Rule 18 requirements cannot, however, be lowered.

4. A student has completed a Level 5 Diploma in New Zealand. Can they enrol in Level 6 programme without further English language proficiency testing?

No. The completion of a sub-degree NZQF qualification is not sufficient evidence of English language capability for the purposes of enrolment in a higher level of study. The student will need to provide evidence that they meet the English language requirements for enrolment at level 6, in line with Rule 18.

The same applies to all sub-degree certificates and diplomas at levels 3-7.

5. A student has been awarded a Bachelor Degree in New Zealand. Can they enrol in a Master’s programme without further English language proficiency testing?

Yes. The Rules allow provides to accept the completion of the following degree level qualifications as evidence of sufficient English language proficiency for enrolment at all levels of the NZQF:

Bachelor Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Bachelor Honours Degree, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma, Master’s Degree or Doctoral Degree with English as the language of instruction, from tertiary education providers from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom or the United States.

6. Can students pathway into our non-English language programme based on English language study or assessment undertaken with another provider?

Students are required to provide evidence that they meet the English language requirements for each programme or training scheme they enrol in, in accordance with Rule 18.

Providers may enrol international students on the basis of English language proficiency assessment conducted by another provider, but only where the other provider is either Category 1 or 2 and has had its internal English proficiency assessment approved by NZQA (Rule 18.6).

However, these English language proficiency assessments cannot be used for students who hold passports from countries with a student visa decline rates of more than 20 per cent, even if they have completed English language programme in New Zealand.

7. Do the English language requirements apply to offshore students?

Yes. However, they do not apply to programmes delivered entirely in a language other than English.

8. What requirements apply to multiple-level programmes?

Students must meet the required score on an English proficiency assessment that is relevant to the highest level of study involved in their programme. For example, if a programme incorporates study at both levels 5 and 6 of the NZQF, students must meet the required scores for enrolling in a programme at level 6.

This ensures that international students have demonstrated that they are capable of understanding and engaging with all content of the programme in which they are enrolling.

9. Can students combine multiple IELTS scores together to meet the required standard?

No, combining scores from multiple tests is not permitted. This is stated in a footnote to the Table in Appendix 2 of the NZQF Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2013.

The need to combine IELTS results implies that although one aspect of a student’s score may have improved in their most recent test, another aspect of the student’s score has deteriorated – otherwise only the most recent test result would be used.

As such, the need to combine test results indicates that a student is not yet capable of maintaining the overall level of English proficiency required to be successful at a particular level of the NZQF.

10. If I have approval to carry out internal proficiency assessments, do I need to keep the actual assessment material?

Yes. All English language proficiency evidence, including providers’ own assessment materials, must be kept in hard or electronic copy for a period of at least two years.

11. Why don’t these requirements apply to universities?

NZQA does not hold legislative responsibility for the quality assurance of universities.

Universities New Zealand holds this responsibility, and information about the English language entry requirements for studying at a New Zealand university can be found on the Admission Requirements for International Students page of the Universities New Zealand website.

12. I am aware of providers that are enrolling international students without ensuring they have satisfied the English language entry requirements. What should I do?

Please pass on as much detailed information as possible to NZQA’s Risk Management Unit, at NZQA will investigate any allegations of non-compliance with English language entry requirements.

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