- Experience a vibrant nightlife and big city living at the University of Auckland
- Explore the local art, music, sports, and entertainment scenes at the University of Waikato
- Join a student club or society at the University of Canterbury
- Soak up the sun at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT)
- Gain a world class education at the University of Otago
- Engage in cultural immersion at Victoria University of Wellington
With a friendly and welcoming local community, no language barrier for English speakers, eclectic cuisine, bursting culture, and several reputable universities, it’s no wonder that so many students choose to study abroad in New Zealand.
However, due to the diverse geography of the country and the fact that it spreads across two main islands, it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact New Zealand university for your study abroad experience.
To make things a little easier during your selection process, we’ve broken down the best universities for study abroad in New Zealand based on six popular categories. New Zealand has a place for everybody, no matter your interests, so let's match you with your dream university!
The best university for nightlife and big city living: University of Auckland
Student population: 43,000 (2021 approx.)
International student population: 8,000 (2021 approx.)
Cost per semester to study abroad: $9,079 (USD)
Over a quarter of all New Zealand residents reside in Auckland, making it the countries most populous city. One big-city benefit this presents is that Auckland is home to around half of all food and beverage companies in New Zealand, making it the perfect place to experience the Kiwi wine, meat, and cheese scene.
In addition, Auckland has several world-famous modern attractions to enjoy between classes, including the iconic Sky Tower. The top of the 60-story Sky Tower offers one-of-a-kind, panoramic views of the city and far beyond, which will make for fantastic photos to send to loved ones back home. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even bungee jump from its peak (a definite bucket list-worthy thrill)!
Auckland has a vibrant nightlife, with a dense number of bars, clubs, and restaurants in the city center. The spectrum of options from laid-back, outdoor venues to multi-story dance clubs allows students to find a place where they feel comfortable letting loose after a week of classes. Additionally, Auckland attracts some of the globe's top music talent -- so you likely won't have to miss out on your favorite performers next tour.
Auckland is a very walkable city (assuming you are in student accommodation near the city center), allowing students to avoid costly taxi fairs when heading to dinner or out for a drink. Don't forget a comfortable pair of walking shoes if you're spending time in Auckland because you will almost certainly be doing lots of it! Be sure to cut through the many large parks spattered throughout the city (except for after dark).
Fun fact: Auckland is one of just a handful of cities worldwide to contain harbors on two distinct bodies of water.
Best university for art, music, sports, and entertainment: University of Waikato
Student population: 13,000 (2021 approx.)
International student population: 2,500 (2021 approx.)
Cost per trimester to study abroad: $9,033 (USD)
With a 5-star rating from QS Top Universities in 2021, The University of Waikato is recognized for its proportion of international staff and students. The university's main campus, located in Hamilton, offers students access to a diverse community and a vibrant atmosphere to engage with each other. Study abroad students will also benefit from the convenience of on-campus accommodations and world-class facilities.
Located in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s northern island, Hamilton is known for its stunning botanicals and booming nightlife. The Hamilton Gardens, which line the notorious Waikato River, present mesmerizing walking routes for when you need a tranquil study break. The city’s Victoria Street boasts an eclectic slew of bars and restaurants, making for perfect outings to experience with your new friends.
Music lovers will be drawn to Hamilton's many music festivals throughout the year, as well as the Opus Chamber Orchestra, while art enthusiasts have semesters worth of galleries and museums to experience. The combination of historic architecture, natural beauty, and modern attractions has led Hamilton to win the title for New Zealand's most beautiful city (and there is some tough competition!).
Hamilton is also a great place to catch national and international sporting events for some of New Zealand’s most beloved sports, including rugby, cricket, and others. Sports science majors or those missing your athletic teams back home will enjoy catching one of these events with classmates.
Fun fact: The Māori name for Hamilton, Kirikiriroa, means long stretch of gravel.
Best university for clubs and extracurriculars: University of Canterbury
Student population: 18,000 (2021 approx.)
International student population: 1,800 (2021 approx.)
Cost per semester to study abroad: $8,822 (USD)
The University of Canterbury is located in the previously devastated city of Christchurch. In 2011, the city was destroyed by a Mw6.2 earthquake. The tragedy has since led to many acts of service as the community recovers. The Student Volunteer Army (SVA) formation quickly followed, which inspired many to help remake Christchurch into what it is today. SVA is now the largest club at the University of Canterbury, and their latest efforts have focused on supporting the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the Student Volunteer Army, the University of Canterbury has another 140 student clubs and societies. With such a wide range of extracurricular groups, students can easily find a community with similar interests. Being located on the South Island means students in Christchurch have access to world-class outdoor sports like rock-climbing and bouldering, skiing, hiking, mountaineering, and much more.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and its unique layout includes the Avon River, which flows directly through the town. Geographically, Christchurch is relatively flat, meaning you can bike around fairly easily -- whether you’re going sightseeing or to and from classes.
Fun fact: The Canterbury Museum has the world’s largest collection of artwork created by the infamous street artist Banksy.
Best university for beach lovers and surfers: Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT)
Student population: 7,000 (2021 approx.)
International student population: 1,500 (2021 approx.)
Cost per semester to study abroad: $6,946 (USD) for 15 credit hours
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) offers a large spectrum of degrees. Notable programs include aquaculture and adventure tourism, but students can choose from nearly 100 other options. A significant bonus NMIT has as a study abroad destination is the cost of study abroad tuition. Uniquely broken down by credit hours, NMIT is the most affordable institution on this list for study abroad.
Nelson is proudly known as one of the sunniest cities in New Zealand, typically offering more than 2,500 sunshine hours each year. There’s no doubt the sun’s frequent presence certainly does wonders for Nelson’s sundry geography, which ranges from bright beaches to forests to mountains.
If you are a water-sports enthusiast, the beaches of Nelson are calling your name! With a world-famous, multi-day beach trek called the Able-Tasman to both family-friendly and big wave surf spots, Nelson is the dream for ocean lovers.
Nelson is another New Zealand city where the art scene is thriving. Many unique handcrafted goods are made and sold directly in Nelson, so you’re sure to see many artisan markets around town. These artisan markets are also a great place to find unique gifts to bring to friends and family back home. Arts and mixed media students will find plenty of inspiration here too.
Additionally, Nelson is a popular destination among foodies. Must-stops include the Nelson Market and Monty’s Sunday Market, which serve fresh, flavorful, local produce every weekend! Plus, Nelson is the county’s unofficial craft beer capital, and many of its breweries offer tours to the public. If you're a culinary student and looking for the perfect destination in New Zealand, Nelson is it!
Fun fact: Neslon is the second-oldest city in New Zealand (established in 1841).
The best university for an internationally ranked education: The University of Otago
Student population: 18,500 (2021 approx.)
International student population: 2,350 (2021 approx.)
Cost per semester to study abroad: $9,263 (USD)
The Univerity of Otago is esteemed both by independent rankings and New Zealand Government research as a leading institute in research and education. The QS World University Rankings places the University of Otago in the top 200 globally with a 5-star rating. Additionally, the Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology determined in its report titled Research and Development in New Zealand- A Decade in Review that the University of Otago ranked first in the country in clinical medicine, Law, and Earth Science as well as first in research quality.
Known unofficially as the “Edinburgh of New Zealand,” Dunedin draws much of its appearance and culture from its Scottish-infused heritage. In the 1800s, the Free Church of Scotland was established in Dunedin, followed by many Scottish people emigrating to the area.
Now, Dunedin is a hot-spot among wildlife students and fans, as it is where many majestic animal species, such as albatross, sea lions, and the extremely rare yellow-eyed penguins, call home. If you’re interested in seeing these animals up-close, you might get to work with them as part of study abroad programs that focus on veterinary science, biology, or zoology. If you're not in one of those programs, there are many reasonably priced guided tours available!
Fun fact: Dunedin is the celtic name for Edinburgh.
Best university for cultural immersion: Victoria University of Wellington
Student population: 22,000 (2021 approx.)
International student population: 3,500 (2021 approx.)
Cost per trimester to study abroad: $9,474 (USD)
Victoria University of Wellington resides in New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. This location creates a unique benefit for students of the University of Wellington through connections to national organizations and the government. Beyond strong local connections, Wellington is one of the safest and happiest cities on earth.
While Wellington is New Zealand's government capital, it is also viewed as the country's cultural capital. Wellington has many cultural institutions like the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (New Zealand's National Museum, which is free to enter) and is home to a large percentage of New Zealand's Māori and Pacific Island communities. The intersection of New Zealand's government organizations and various communities provides students with an insight into the many aspects of what makes New Zealand special.
Fun fact: Wellington is the windiest city of earth.
Cost to study abroad in New Zealand
New Zealand is an expensive study abroad destination. As a remote group of islands, there are additional expenses to consider when traveling to New Zealand. For example, flights are expensive (anticipate to spend at least $2,000 for round trip airfare from the US), and the cost of living is high. Studying on the south island is, on average, more expensive than the north island. However, there are ways to mitigate and offset these costs, including scholarships and how you choose to enroll.
When evaluating your study abroad options, you will need to choose between enrolling directly with a university or enrolling through a third-party program provider. Direct enrollment generally costs between $8,000-$13,000 per semester, depending on the university. Program providers charge anywhere from $13,000 - $18,000, including tuition. While the price difference is significant, these providers offer advice and on-the-ground support, which is well worth it for many students. Also, many providers offer scholarships for their programs which can greatly negate this cost difference.
Fortunately, students have access to financial support and scholarship opportunities to help fund their New Zealand study abroad experience. Education New Zealand has a find a scholarship web portal that lets users find and apply for scholarships they qualify for. To maximize your chances of being awarded scholarships, apply far ahead of your semester abroad and take the time to turn in the best application you can.
New Zealand is one of the best destinations for study abroad for many reasons. You can find a world-class education, modern, safe, and welcoming cities, natural wonders, and access to all the thrilling activities or relaxing exhibits you can dream of. No matter where you choose, you will find a happy and inspiring community or Kiwi's willing to share their beautiful home with you.
You can further your research, find additional guides and resources, and start applying for programs by visiting the Study Abroad in New Zealand page right here at Go Overseas.