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New Zealand is an island country situated about 2,000 km (1250 miles) southeast of Australia, in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It has two main islands (North Island and South Island) and a number of smaller islands. The South Island is the largest land mass and is divided along its length by the Southern Alps. The North Island is less mountainous but marked by volcanism.
New Zealand, with a total area of 268,680 square kilometres, is comparable in size to Great Britain, Japan, or Colorado. Its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Its capital city is Wellington, the southernmost national capital in the world.
New Zealand has four distinct seasons but a mild climate characterises most of the country, along with fairly high regional rainfall but also lots of sunshine. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where tropical rainforests, sunny coastline, alpine mountains and a variety of flora and fauna are found within a relatively close distance of each other.
New Zealand has a rich heritage stemming from both Maori (aboriginal peoples) and European influences. The Europeans did not discover New Zealand until 1642 and it took another 150 years for settlers to begin to arrive. As European expansion increased, so did Maori resistance, and there were many conflicts in the 19th century (similar to the European/aboriginal friction in North America at around the same time). There have been several aboriginal/government settlements since that time to redress land lost by the Maori during European expansion, and Maori are now celebrated as an integral part of New Zealand culture.
For most of the 20th century, New Zealand was a member of the British Empire. It became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1947 and by this time Britain no longer played a notable role in governing the country. Britain, however, remained highly important to the New Zealand economy, and Britain's joining the EU in 1973 dealt a big blow to New Zealand's export-oriented economy. The economy suffered for some time because of this and other factors, but successive governments restructured it from highly protectionist and regulated to one of the freest in the world, and the country now has many more trading partners.
The population of New Zealand is approximately 4.6 million, with over 80% living in urban areas including Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, and Dunedin. There is a great mix of ethnicities in the population, with Asians and Polynesians making up notable minorities in the majority Caucasian population. The median age is 38. Christianity is the dominant religion, and English the most common language.
New Zealand is a harmonious and friendly society, unique in its identity. It is a multicultural fusion of Maori, Polynesian, Asian, and European cultures, and is recognised for a progressive humanitarian and pacifist stance, liberal politics, and world-leading social welfare. Cultural highlights include food and wine (and festivals celebrating these), outdoor activities and scenery, live music, a huge rugby tradition, and traditional Maori arts and crafts.
New Zealand has a stable, healthy economy characterised by low inflation and steady growth, and a high standard of living. Over 50% of exports are agricultural products. The country is heavily dependent on free trade, and maintains a strong export industry with partners such as the United States, the U.K., Japan, and Australia. The dominant sector is agriculture and services, but manufacturing, construction and raw materials are also important. Tourism is also a major contributor to the economy; New Zealand is recognised around the world as being uniquely beautiful. The currency is the New Zealand Dollar.
New Zealand is divided into 12 regions and 74 districts (15 of these are designated as cities) with a parliamentary system based on the British system, with special land legislation and courts for the Maori. It is a constitutional monarchy: Queen Elizabeth II is officially Queen of New Zealand, and she is represented by a Governor General, who ratifies all laws by the elected New Zealand parliament. New Zealand is a fully independent member of the Commonwealth.
Living conditions in New Zealand are very good due to its thriving economy, low crime rate, and relative lack of congestion and poverty. The OECD notes: "New Zealand ranks at the top in health status and social connections. It ranks above the average in income and wealth, environmental quality, civic engagement, personal security, housing, subjective well-being, education and skills, and jobs and earnings."
The cost of living, including accommodation, in New Zealand is often more reasonable than that found in many parts of Asia, Europe, and North America. The government is active in supporting immigration, which includes helping people find good homes and suitable living conditions for their budgets.
The New Zealand Education website notes : "If you will be studying in New Zealand for more than one year, you'll need to prove that you have at least $15,000 to support yourself for the first year. If you're studying for less than a year, you must have at least $1250 for each month of study to contribute to your living expenses."
As for tuition, they say:
Bachelor's: "Fees range from about $22,000 to $32,000, with higher fees for subjects such as medicine and veterinary science. Many bachelor's degrees can be completed in three years."
Postgraduate: "Fees range from about $26,000 to $37,000, with higher fees for subjects such as medicine and veterinary science."
PhDs: "International PhD students pay the same as New Zealand PhD students, which is about $6,500 to $9,000 per year for most subjects."
The New Zealand higher education system includes universities, private institutions, colleges, and polytechnics. Post-secondary education is regulated by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).
As well as eight state-owned education providers, there are hundreds of private training establishments (PTEs) in New Zealand including quality English-language providers. They offer a wide variety of courses that lead to qualifications in a large range of vocations from scuba diving to hospitality to business. NZQA requires that Private Training Establishments (PTEs) have adequate protection of student fees and tuition.
Polytechnics offer education and training at tertiary levels ranging from introductory studies through to full degree programmes. They deliver technical, vocational, and professional education. There close to two dozen polytechnics or institutes of technology in New Zealand.
The National Qualifications Framework is a system of national qualifications available through study in schools, polytechnics, colleges of education, etc. The Framework provides nationally recognised, consistent standards and qualifications. The Framework is endorsed and supported by New Zealand's education and training providers, employers and national industry and professional groups. It is compatible with similar systems in the U.K., Europe, South Africa, Australia, and North America.
Education institutions must meet stringent criteria in accordance with the Immigration Act 1987. All students must have a confirmation of enrolment before applying for a visa. New Zealand's immigration laws prevent an international student from studying at a private provider that has not been registered with the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) or a course that is not NZQA approved.