PhD in New Zealand

All eight of the country’s universities are included in the current world ranking of top QS universities, including the research category. Wherever in NZ, you choose to do your PhD, you will be doing research at an internationally recognized institution. The NZ government subsidises PhD programmes which means you will pay the same fees as a New Zealand citizen.

New Zealand universities have projects that are simply not available elsewhere and in the fields ranging from ecology to anthropology. In addition, you will be writing your doctoral dissertation living among breathtaking landscapes. Here you can find entertainment to any taste, even the most sophisticated one.

In this article:

What is a PhD in New Zealand

During your PhD, you research a certain topic in-depth and in the end, write and defend your PhD thesis. The goal of a PhD student is to make an original and significant contribution to a specific area of research.

The research is usually supervised by a professor. This is usually an experienced researcher, a professor with a large academic background who will help you develop your ideas and practical experience to complete your project. In New Zealand, your research supervisor also plays an important role in the application process.

PhD usually takes three to four years of full-time study. Distance education options are also available, but only for local students. International candidates can only study on a full-time basis having a student visa.

The school year in New Zealand runs from February to November. It may seem strange if you are used to the European study system, but in fact, it is quite common in the southern hemisphere. A short break between graduation and post-graduate studies is a perfect time for perfecting your application and for getting a visa.

Most of the time a postgraduate student spends doing research for their project. Depending on the university, the PhD program may include some classes. However, in general, the work that the PhD student does in the research process is not assessed in any way. The degree of PhD is awarded based on the evaluation of a thesis and the defence of the project.

Costs and funding

Unlike the UK and other Western countries, New Zealand does not charge high fees for PhD programmes. This makes the country a relatively affordable option in terms of obtaining an internationally recognized degree.

Universities determine the cost of PhD programmes themselves, but most of them charge between 6,500 and 9,000 New Zealand dollars per year for the entire programme.

You can check the cost of specific programmes on FindAPhD. For outstanding candidates, some of the programmes offer funding, usually in the form of a discount or scholarship.

Living expenses

The cost of living in New Zealand is again relatively low compared to Australia, the UK or the USA. You will need between 15,000 and 20,000 New Zealand dollars (11,000 to 15,000 US dollars) per year. This is how much you need to show for your visa as well.

Part of the cost of living can be covered due to work during a PhD (if visa conditions allow doing so). However, it is better to have enough money with you in case you are not able to work.


Many universities in New Zealand offer postgraduate students various funding options, which can be found on FindAPhD. Some also offer international scholarships for students who need additional financial support. You can find them on university websites or check the funding database maintained by New Zealand Education Services.

The New Zealand Government also runs its own postgraduate scholarship programme in New Zealand (NZIDRS). They cover the cost of tuition and provide annual stipends of NZ$ 25,000 ($18,250) for accommodation and NZ$ 600 ($450) for health insurance.

Applications for these scholarships are usually submitted through universities. The competition is large, but this should not discourage you, as with a good research proposal and a strong motivation to apply for a scholarship it is more than realistic. Getting a scholarship will not only solve the cost issues, but it will also be a great highlight in your resume.

Application Process

In New Zealand, you must apply directly to the university of your choice to apply for a PhD. An education agent is of little assistance in this case as an applicant has to directly communicate with the university.

Each university sets its own admission requirements for various PhD projects and programs, but they all look for two things.

First, the university must make sure that you have the necessary knowledge and experience to complete the PhD in your chosen field. They will decide this based on your previous qualifications. Master degree GPA has to be above average. A master’s degree may not be required for entry into PhD programs, but additional knowledge on a research topic may help your application – especially if you have already had research experience on the topic.

Among other key criteria are the relevance of the project you want to research and the contribution you can make in the chosen field.

If you are proposing your own research topic, i.e. the topic is not within the research area of the supervisors of that institution, you will need to submit a compelling research proposal that demonstrates the originality, relevance and feasibility of your ideas.

What you need to do

You should contact your prospective supervisor before formally applying for admission to a PhD. Universities usually do not consider applications from international students who have not yet found a suitable supervisor for their research topic.

The supervisor you contact should normally be the lead researcher in the field that the university is focused on or a professor with a relevant research background in the topic you are proposing. The best option for the first contact is to send him or her a short e-mail in which you introduce yourself and outline your research interests.

You can attach your research proposal but do not expect it to succeed on its own: your email should be quite appealing to a potential supervisor.

With the support of your supervisor, you can then apply to the university admission team.

Usually, you will be asked to provide a degree and transcript of records + a research proposal. Academic and professional references, as well as a motivation letter, may also be required.

Deadlines for application submission

As PhD is an independent research work, you can start anytime. This means that you do not have to apply before a particular academic year or semester start.

Exceptions can be made for Advertised PhD, especially if funding is attached. These projects often have deadlines and deadlines for application. The whole process can take up to 4 months before you receive an offer from the university. Make sure you have enough time to get your visa after that.


In some cases, you may want to meet in person or online to discuss a research project. You may be invited to an interview, including an online conference.

If they want to interview you, it is always a good sign implying that the admission team favours your proposed project and they want to discuss it with you in more detail.

Visa Application

As an international student, you will certainly need a visa during your PhD. Exceptions are made for citizens of Australia and some other countries.

For PhD in New Zealand, you will need a special student visa. A standard tourist visa can be obtained for three months – it is perfect for a short stay in the country, for example, if you need to see an assigned supervisor in person. But for further study, you need to get a long-term student visa.

You can apply online at on your own or ask Kiwi Education for assistance.

We will competently and quickly service you: we will consult you on the list of documents, will assist you with drawing up a competent cover letter for visa application and will submit the application on your behalf through our INZ agency account. Usually, we provide visa support free of charge, as we work at the expense of commission from universities. However, since PhD applications can only be submitted by applicants themselves directly to the university, without agents, we do not receive any fee. Visa support service will cost NZD 395.

Visa for partner and children

Your student visa will allow you to bring your partner and/or your children (under 18 years) to New Zealand while you do PhD. Children of Postgraduate students have the right to study at a local school as a domestic student, i.e. for free. And partners of PhD students can apply for a working partner visa.

Work during PhD in New Zealand

A nice bonus for postgraduate students is permission to work full-time on a student visa for the entire period of study. This also applies to research master students.
However, you should consult your supervisor before applying for a job, so that there are no overlaps with your university schedule.

What to do once you graduate

New Zealand is a popular destination for travelling and getting a prestigious education and you will certainly enjoy your time there as a postgraduate student. But are your further options once you get your desired degree?

Well, one thing is certain: you will get an internationally recognized qualification that makes your CV more appealing and will open up a wide range of opportunities around the world. The fact that you took the opportunity to study abroad, got to know a different culture will make you an impressive candidate for potential employers.

In addition, New Zealand is also interested in getting something from you in return for the education you have been given here. Therefore, upon completion of a PhD, students are entitled to work visas with a very generous period of three years.

During this time, you have a high chance of finding a permanent job consequently leading to permanent residence in NZ.

Please complete our application form so that we can assess your chances of obtaining a student visa to New Zealand.


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