Principles and policies of qualification recognition

Qualification recognition

Under the Education and Training Act 2020 (Section 433(1)(j)), the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) functions include the recognition of overseas educational and vocational qualifications.

Qualifications recognition is where a qualification gained in a country other than New Zealand is evaluated against the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. This process enables people to have qualifications gained in other countries recognised in New Zealand for purposes such as employment (including professional registration), admission to further education and immigration.

In New Zealand, all qualifications need to meet the definition of a qualification on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. A qualification recognises the achievement of a set of learning outcomes for a particular purpose through formal certification. In order to be listed as a qualification on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, a qualification must meet the following criteria:

  • the programme of learning is offered by a quality assured, accredited provider of higher or vocational education
  • the programme of learning is complete, moderated, coherent, and a minimum of 40 NZQF credits (this is approximately equivalent to 10 weeks of full-time academic study, however can vary for trade and vocational qualifications).

NZQA does not assess:

  • academic secondary school qualifications
  • certificates of attendance
  • certificates of proficiency (if they do not also include formal learning programmes
  • letters or certificates of work experience
  • apprenticeships without formal training programmes
  • professional or specialist training certificates (such as CISCO or Microsoft expert awards)
  • Membership certificates issued by chartered bodies, unless they are formally recognised by the relevant government or government mandated education bodies in the country of award, at the time of award

In evaluating overseas qualifications, NZQA considers these criteria, and provides applicants with a statement which records the outcome of the evaluation of the applicant's qualification against the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.


1. NZQA offers a fair and equitable service

NZQA provides holders of qualifications gained in other countries with adequate access, upon application, to an evaluation of their qualifications against the New Zealand Qualifications Framework without discrimination.

This includes (and is not limited to) racial, religious, political or other opinion, sexual, gender, colour, disability, language, national, ethnic or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status, or on the grounds of any other circumstance not related to the merits of the qualification for which recognition is sought.

NZQA's evaluation methodology ensures that evaluation procedures are consistent and clear, ensuring that applicants receive a fair consideration of their application.

2. NZQA follows a transparent process

When completing evaluations, NZQA takes into account the diversity of education traditions and systems in countries other than New Zealand, and is committed to upholding its obligations under the relevant international conventions and arrangements.

Applicants who do not agree with the decision as recorded in the Recognition Statement have the right to seek a review of the decision within a specified time frame.

3. NZQA applies a flexible approach

NZQA recognises that, in particular circumstances, a degree of flexibility may be required in evaluation procedures, whilst still ensuring that the core evaluation processes are followed.

NZQA implements systems which enable refugees to have their qualifications, and other learning undertaken before their arrival in New Zealand, evaluated for recognition purposes.


1. Information

It is the applicant's responsibility to provide sufficient information about the qualification(s) gained in another country.

NZQA will endeavour to make it clear what information is required, for example which documents must be provided and if translations are required. We will seek more information from third parties, as required, such as further information about the education and qualification system in the country of award and if relevant, in the country of study.

Recognition statements are based on the information available to NZQA at the time the assessment is undertaken. NZQA will endeavour to find the information that it requires. We reserve the right to refuse recognition if there is insufficient information available to assess any qualification.

2. Fees

Applicants will be informed in advance of fees that will be charged. The fees are set on the basis of cost recovery.

3. Processing time

The time normally required to process evaluations is specified on the NZQA website. The time begins once applicants have submitted their application with all relevant information.

NZQA will inform applicants of the reason for any delay and where possible the estimated time required to complete the evaluation. In particular, educational institutions where qualifications are awarded can take time to respond to NZQA's requests for information. This is outside NZQA’s control.

NZQA will cancel an application after two months from the time it was submitted electronically if the applicant has not provided, or NZQA has not received, the supporting documents needed to complete the evaluation.

NZQA will cancel an application after three months from the time additional information was requested if that information has not been provided and is required for the evaluation to progress. NZQA will issue a maximum of three requests in writing seeking further information to the applicant, nominated agent or relevant authority.

4. Recognition Statement

NZQA will provide applicants with a Recognition Statement which records the outcome of the evaluation of the applicant's foreign qualification against the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

A Recognition Statement does not imply any entitlement – education providers, employers, registration bodies and other government agencies make decisions regarding a person's suitability for admission to education programmes, employment, registration and immigration, etc.

The authenticity of Recognition Statements can be checked on NZQA’s website.

5. Evaluation process

NZQA has a two-stage process for evaluating qualifications gained in another country:

Stage 1: Recognising the foreign qualification

NZQA tries to situate the qualification within the education system in which the qualification was gained. NZQA seeks to establish that the qualification was formally issued by a recognised awarding body and met the regulations which applied within the relevant education system at the time.

Stage 2: Assessing the qualification

Then NZQA takes into account the qualification's purpose, relative position and function compared to other qualifications within the relevant education system. If the country has a qualifications framework, that framework's features may provide reliable information for NZQA.

NZQA seeks to recognise the qualification's comparable level and type on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, taking into account the purpose for which recognition is sought and the role of any relevant mandated competent bodies in New Zealand.

As part of this process, NZQA will consider the learning outcomes of the qualification – what the holders of the qualification were expected to know, understand and be able to do. It is recognised that learning outcomes can be achieved and demonstrated in a wide variety of settings. NZQA also considers:

  • Entrance requirements – the typical admission requirements for entrance to the relevant learning programmes can help evaluators understand the level of the qualification;
  • The duration of the learning programme and volume of study – the typical learning time and workload required to complete the qualification can help evaluators understand the level of the qualification;
  • The quality assurance system that underpins the education system and the specific qualification.

NZQA's processes may vary depending on an applicant's purpose in seeking qualifications recognition.

6. Taking into account recognition arrangements

NZQA will refer to existing recognition arrangements early in the evaluation process. It will comply with the relevant comparability statements unless there is justification not to do so.

7. Outcome of the evaluation as recorded in the Recognition Statement

The evaluation outcome will depend on the purpose of the application, the field of learning, and the information available to NZQA.

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