How much does it cost to study at university or polytech?

Socialising with friends is an important part of student life Socialising with friends is an important part of student life

Studying at university or a polytechnic isn’t cheap


Courses can cost thousands of dollars each year, and then there are really important things like accommodation, materials and living costs to consider. 

Tertiary study can be viewed as an investment in your future, with success in your studies giving you a really strong start to your working career. 



  • These are charged for each paper you enrol in as part of your degree or your course. They cover your teaching costs, lab costs (if applicable), exam and marking costs each year. You can borrow the money for these through a student loan that will need to be paid back.  
  • Undergraduate arts and science degrees can cost between $6,000 and $8,000 annually. Each institution has the fees for its courses shown on their websites so you can calculate how much your studies will cost. Some institutions, and particularly the Southern Institute of Technology in Southland, make themselves attractive to students from all over the country by not charging all or some of these fees. Many foundation or similar courses that prepare you for further study are free. 

Studying at home 

  • It is a whole lot cheaper to live at home than anywhere else. A range of your essential costs like rent, food, electricity, maybe even use of a car, are often all sorted by parents.
  • Living at home can shave between $13,000 and $16,000 off your costs in your first year of study (compared to living in a hostel).
  • Victoria University says studying from home can slash your costs. The university estimates that it costs an estimated $6500 to study in Wellington annually (excluding course fees), while living in a single, catered room in a hall of residence will add approx. $13,500 to that number.  

Studying away from home

  • The biggest cost you will have if studying away from home is your accommodation costs. Most first year students want to be in a hostel where they can meet new friends and work their way into tertiary life. Fully catered hostels can cost between $13,000 and $16,000 for a year. Other costs if not at home include transport to and from the city where you are studying.
  • The University of Auckland reckons studying in the City of Sails requires between $20,000 and $25,000 per year ($380-480 per week) for non-course costs like hostel accommodation, food, transport, and entertainment. The university has a good indication of likely costs student face here


If you are tossing up whether to study in your home town or to move to another city, cost becomes a very real consideration.

You really need to work this through with your parents and decide what you and your family can afford.


These ebooks can help 

The University of Auckland has a good indication of likely costs student face here.

Victoria University made this really helpful financial survival guide for students.

Here’s a similar look at costs from the University of Canterbury.

Calculate your own budgets

Use this excellent budget calculator from Sorted

Work out exactly where your money goes


Find out more about tertiary study in New Zealand