New Zealand Scholarship

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From 2004, the New Zealand Scholarship is a New Zealand secondary school award gained at the end of Year 13, and provides financial support for study at a New Zealand university. It is intended for the top students of NCEA Level 3, the main secondary school leaving qualification.


The first scholarship examination by the University of New Zealand was held in May 1872.[1][2] After 1962, scholarships were awarded by the Universities Entrance Board. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority took over the work of the Universities Entrance Board in 1991.

From 1989 to 2003 scholarships were awarded to the top 3-4% of Bursary students. In response to the removal of separate scholarship examinations a group of teachers set up their own scholarship exam, later becoming the New Zealand Educational Scholarships Trust (NZEST).[1]

A "NCEA Level 4" qualification was proposed in the 1998 Cabinet paper "Qualifications for Young People Aged 16 to 19 Years" and the discussions that ensued concluded that there be an external examination and that scholarships be awarded. [2] New Zealand Scholarship exams started in 2004. NZEST stopped its examinations and now provides financial assistance for students studying at NZ universities.

The 2004 examinations, in line with the NCEA, were criterion-referenced and produced some unexpected results distributions. Several reviews of the award and a media and political debate followed. The Scholarship examination was largely revamped. Scholarships in 2005 were awarded to the top three per cent of NCEA Level 3 candidates in the subject, given that examiners are satisfied a worthy standard has been met. Monetary awards were restructured and credit value was removed from the examinations.


The Scholarship is awarded by standards-based three-hour external examinations, which are mostly written exams. The grades are No Award, Scholarship and Outstanding Scholarship. Example of result table at NZQA

The 2004 examination of the New Zealand Scholarship by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority was marred by controversy, most notably the irregular pass rates (e.g. 0.9% pass rate for Biology 2004). The head of the Authority later resigned over this and allied issues.

Monetary Awards[edit]

All monetary values are in the New Zealand dollar.

The monetary awards are tenable at any New Zealand university, and all except single subject awards last for three years as long as a 'B' average is maintained. Candidates must gain at least three scholarships to be eligible for the Scholarship, Outstanding and Premier awards. All candidates are eligible for only one of the following monetary awards, except that up to two single subject awards can be awarded to a candidate, and a winner of a Top Subject Scholar Award who also passes a second scholarship subject is eligible for the additional $500 award.

  • The Premier Award is awarded to the top five to ten candidates who gain three or more scholarship subjects with at least three at outstanding level, and is worth $10,000 per year for three years.
  • An Outstanding Scholar Award is awarded to the top 40 to 60 candidates (usually around the top 0.3% of the number of Level 3 students sitting the subject, but more for the less common subjects) who gain three scholarship subjects with two at outstanding level or gain more than three scholarship subjects with at least one at outstanding level, and is worth $5,000 per year for three years.
  • A Scholarship Award is awarded to all candidates who gain three or more scholarship subjects, and is worth $2,000 per year for three years.
  • A Top Subject Scholar Award' is awarded to candidates who are top of a subject, and did not receive one of the above prizes. It is worth $2,000 per year for three years.
  • A single subject award is awarded to candidates who gain one or two scholarship subjects and did not top the subject(s). It is worth $500 per subject for one year only.


  1. ^ Beaglehole, J. C. (1937). The University of New Zealand: A historical study. New Zealand Council for Educational Research. p. 85. LCC LG735.B365. … there were already thirty-five entries for the first scholarship examination in May 1872… 
  2. ^ Parton, Hugh (1979). The University of New Zealand. University Grants Committee, New Zealand. p. 98. ISBN 0-19-647973-8. The first scholarship examination was held in May 1872… 

See also[edit]