Transition into Tertiary Education

Early planning is key to ensuring a successful transition from school to tertiary education.

By the age of 14 each student should have an individual transition plan in place that has been developed by their support team. This should address specific goals and the plan to achieve them, the support needed to undertake further study and any equipment that might be required.

All tertiary providers have a contact person or service for people with disabilities. It’s a good idea to get in touch with them at an early stage to talk through the support that may be available.

In addition to this, some schools have a transition programme that allows students to ‘try out’ courses they may be interested in. The STAR programme is funded by the government and designed to help students in years 11-13 move smoothly from school into tertiary study or work.

Disability at Tertiary Institutions

In New Zealand, tertiary education means any type of post-secondary education including certificates and diplomas, bachelor degrees, postgraduate qualifications, industry training (including modern apprenticeships), adult and community courses and literacy and numeracy programmes.

If you choose to continue your education at this level, qualifications will be delivered by one of the following types of tertiary education provider; Universities, Polytechnics or Institutes of Technology, Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and Wananga.

In the last few years these providers have recognized that they need to do more to make tertiary education accessible to all.

Achieve is a national network established to ensure equal opportunity and access to tertiary education for people with impairments. They publish a code of practice (PDF) for tertiary education providers to help them establish an inclusive environment.

The following providers who have signed up to the code of practice: 


When it comes time to leave school many students choose to further their studies at University.

There are eight universities across New Zealand and each one offers disability support services to both prospective and current students listed below. If you have a query about any aspect of University life they may be able to help.

Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology

Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology are also a popular choice for further study. In the past they focused on practical vocational courses, but in recent years have expanded their range of courses with many now offering degree programmes.

Private Training Establishments (PTEs)

These are private organisations providing education or training. There are hundreds of PTEs throughout New Zealand. The Tertiary Education Portal has a search facility to find a PTE in your area.


These are institutions of teaching and research with a focus on advancing knowledge of Maori tradition and Maori custom. There are three Wananga in New Zealand:

Other Tertiary Education Providers

You may wish to contact these providers direct to find out more about their disability services.

Disability Sector Training and Qualifications

If you have an interest in working in the disability sector it may be worth obtaining a qualification in your particular field of interest.

Disability Workforce Development at Te Pou and Vocational and Support Services (VASS) have developed a new online disability training directory. The directory provides a central place for the disability sector to access relevant training information and aims to support the development of the workforce, consumers, and family/whanau.

CareerForce is the industry training organization (ITO) for disability for levels 1-8 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Their website has details of qualifications in the disability sector. 

You can train to be a New Zealand Sign language Tutor at AUT.

And The Ministry of Education provides special education study awards and scholarships at a post graduate level.

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