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PhD Funding in New Zealand

Written by Jennifer Bevan

With low doctoral fees, high-ranking universities and world-class research, New Zealand makes a great place to complete a PhD.

New Zealand PhD funding can be in the form of a government or university scholarship, industry/charitable bursaries, or assistantships at the universities. On this page we’ve investigated all of the main funding options and explained how to find the best way of supporting your PhD.

New Zealand PhD funding – what you need to know first

Though there are only eight universities across the country they all do extremely well in the world university rankings, making New Zealand renowned for its higher education system. New Zealand is a popular study destination for international students, partly due to the variety of funding options, partly due to its friendly atmosphere and partly due to the scenery (and the Lord of the Rings set)! So how do you fund a PhD in New Zealand? Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing your research:

  • New Zealand are big fans of international students (like you!) and to keep them coming for PhD study, the doctoral fees are the same for international students as for New Zealand residents. This makes PhD study in New Zealand very affordable for students compared to many other countries.
  • There are hundreds of scholarship opportunities to make the cost of study in New Zealand even more affordable, with many advertised on the study in New Zealand website. Each university also has their own list of scholarships available.
  • The New Zealand Government does offer student loans, but only to New Zealand citizens and long-term residents.

It might be helpful to look at our overall PhD study in New Zealand guide, if you haven’t already. This gives an overview of all the aspects to take into account when considering study in New Zealand – not just the funding.

The cost of a PhD in New Zealand

Studying a PhD in New Zealand is relatively affordable for international students, with no additional tuition fees and the opportunity to work unrestricted hours (not that full-time work is necessarily a good idea while you’re doing a PhD!). But how much does it cost exactly?

PhD fees

In New Zealand the Government doesn’t regulate the fees charged for PhD study, leaving the universities set their own fees for their programmes. This means there is some variation in cost between institutions and may also differ depending on the subject of study. The good news is, unlike many countries, international PhD students pay the same fees as students from New Zealand.

Generally, PhD fees are between NZD $6,500 to $9,000 per year for a majority of subjects. At the upper end, this is similar to the cost of PhD study in the UK for domestic students, but since many universities have lower fees (and there are no additional international fees), PhD programmes in New Zealand are on average more affordable than in the UK.

Alongside the PhD fees some universities may also require you to pay a student services fee of anything up to NZD $1,000, although this varies between universities.

You may not have to pay these fees yourself. There is a government-run New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships (NZIDRS) scheme, which includes payment of all course fees. Many universities also offer their own scholarships that cover PhD programme costs.

Living costs

The New Zealand Government require students to have a minimum of NZD $15,000 available to cover living costs for each year of study. Each university recommends a different amount of money per year, but generally you should aim for NZD $15,000 to $20,000.

Living costs depend on whereabouts in the country you live, how much travelling you’ll need to do and your lifestyle. Universities in more expensive areas recommend a minimum of NZD $18,000 per year so keep this in mind when selecting a university.

You may be able to work to offset some of the costs, since student visas in New Zealand allow doctoral candidates to work during both term time and holidays.

Other expenses

As an international student, it’s a good idea to have medical and travel insurance, although this isn’t mandatory for PhD students. Generally speaking, this will cost around NZD $670 per year. Talk to your university about which insurance is best for you.

You’ll also need to apply for a visa. As an international PhD student, you’ll need the fee-paying student visa, which costs NZD $330.

New Zealand Government PhD funding

The New Zealand Government knows the value that international students contribute to research. That’s why since 2005, they have been attracting more and more international students by offering domestic fees and allowing students to bring their families with them. This has worked a treat and as of 2020 almost half of New Zealand’s PhD students are international. Therefore, it’s no surprise they also offer a range of scholarship schemes for international students.

New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships (NZIDRS)

This scheme is funded by the New Zealand Government and supports students from any country in the world. The successful applicants are awarded with paid tuition fees, a generous monthly living allowance (NZD $25,000 annually), a travel budget and a health insurance allowance.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NZIDRS scholarships weren’t on offer in 2021, but check the New Zealand scholarships page for opportunities.

The deadline for NZIDRS applications is usually in July. This is a particularly competitive scholarship, but don’t let this put you off applying. There are many available each year and you never know; one could be yours.

New Zealand Commonwealth Scholarships

As part of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP), the New Zealand Government offer scholarships to students from selected other Commonwealth countries.

This scholarship has some specific rules including students having to return to their home country for a minimum of two years at the end of their scholarship. Applications are usually due around March so keep an eye on the Study in New Zealand website for the detailed rules, eligibility, and the deadline.

Research bodies

The New Zealand Government funds a number of research councils, many of which offer scholarships to PhD students across a range of areas. Some of these opportunities are only available to New Zealand residents, but many are also open to international students. Below are a few examples, but speak to your university to see which they recommend you apply to:

Other opportunities

The Study in New Zealand website has a database of funding opportunities for international students that can be filtered based on your subject of study.

Industry and charities

In New Zealand, there are many organisations that are interested in research, whether they have a charitable goal or are commercial companies looking for new products. Both often offer PhD funding.

These opportunities are different year to year and can be hard to spot so speak to your prospective supervisor, they’ll usually know which organisations are most likely to fund your research area.

Industry

If you’re looking for an industry-funded PhD, you’re most likely to find an advertised project with attached funding. Companies tend to partner with specific universities and offer set projects. However, depending on your subject area some companies may have separate scholarships you can apply for.

Charities

There are hundreds of charities that offer full or partial scholarships to PhD students across many disciplines, but many are only available to New Zealand residents. Unlike company funding, charity schemes are not generally attached to projects and must be applied for separately. A few examples of charities that offer scholarships to international students are below:

University grants and assistantships

Each of the eight universities in New Zealand have their own website containing a list of scholarship opportunities, including those offered by the university and some from external sources. There are a range of scholarships offered by each university, often aimed at specific subject areas or for students from certain countries. For example, each university offers a doctoral scholarship for the highest achieving students.

As well as offering scholarships, many universities have graduate assistantship programmes. As part of an assistantship, you’ll generally perform extra tasks to your PhD research to help the department and in return will be paid a salary. Any assistantship opportunities can be found on the university website. There are two main types of assistantship available:

  • Teaching assistantships, which involve supporting the teaching of undergraduate programmes in your subject. This may involve demonstrating techniques, teaching a class, and marking assignments. Teaching assistantships are similar to part-time jobs, with the payment you receive generally classed as taxable income, rather than direct funding.
  • Research assistantships, which don’t always involve additional work to what you already do as part of your PhD, as your job is to contribute to a research team, and you’re already expected to do this when doing a PhD. It’s often paid as a stipend or scholarship, rather than as a salary.

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Last updated - 15/11/2021

PhD Study in New Zealand – A Guide for 2022

New Zealand offers a stunning location for doctoral research, with world-ranked universities, unique study opportunities and no additional international fees for PhD students. Our guide explains applications, visa requirements, funding and more.

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Last Updated: 15 November 2021