Courses, qualifications and levels
A course is a unit of study encompassing teaching, learning, research and/or assessment. Papers, unit standards and modules are examples of different types of courses. A course or collection of courses forms a programme of study which, if completed successfully, results in the award of a qualification.
A qualification is awarded to students when they have successfully completed a programme of study, which has been quality assured by a recognised quality assurance agency. You can find out more about qualifications from the NZQA website.
There are a number of qualification levels. The level you start at depends on the study and training you have completed either at school or post school. The entry criteria vary from qualification to qualification and these may determine which one you choose.
The different qualifications are:
- Bridging courses are for people who haven’t achieved the required entry-level qualifications, or who are over 20 and unsure of their ability to cope with study and training. Bridging courses are commonly held in maths, English and science subjects to get students up to speed for entry to a degree-entry qualification. Many providers also offer Foundation courses so that prospective students can learn essay writing, study and time management skills or get a feel for a subject area.
- Certificates usually requires one year of full-time study and training. Nationally recognised certificates usually have the same course content and structure at all tertiary providers.
- Diplomas normally requires two years of full-time study. It can follow on from a certificate or degree, or stand alone as a qualification.
- Degrees: A bachelors degree, which is may also be called an ‘undergraduate’ degree, usually requires at least three years full-time study. Bachelors degrees are theory-based and involve moving progressively from more basic study to more advanced levels in one or more subject areas. A bachelors degree can lead to postgraduate study - and one or more years of more advanced study for an honours or masters degree.
- Staircasing: If you don’t have the grades to go straight into a degree or diploma course you may be able to staircase your way through study and training. For example, you may want to be an engineer but don’t have a university entrance qualification, so you complete a NZ Certificate in Engineering, move to a diploma course and then a degree. Many people use staircasing to make a fresh start to gain qualifications.