Bridging and foundation courses

If you are thinking about doing a polytechnic or university course but don’t have enough NCEA credits, you could consider doing a bridging or foundation course.

What are bridging and foundation courses?

Students study in a library

Foundation courses can help prepare you for tertiary study

Bridging and foundation courses are for you if: 

  • you don't meet the minimum entry requirements for a tertiary course
  • you are unsure of your ability to cope with tertiary study
  • you haven't studied for some time
  • you want to see what tertiary study is like before you make a financial commitment.

Bridging or foundation courses are held in maths, English, science subjects and health sciences. They can help build up your skills and meet the minimum entry requirements for a degree course. Many training providers offer foundation courses in essay writing and study and time management skills, which can also give you a feel for a subject.

Some tertiary institutes have foundation year scholarships available, so find out if you are eligible.

Foundation courses are usually a full year of study and are an excellent way to develop good study habits before you start your degree course, even though they don't count towards your degree. 

To find bridging or foundation courses for the study course you're interested in, visit the website of the polytechnic or university you want to attend. 

Preparatory courses

Some tertiary institutes provide short introductory courses to help students prepare for academic study. Preparatory course subjects include English for speakers of other languages, law, chemistry and physics. Visit the website of the polytechnic or university you want to attend to find preparatory courses.

Preparatory courses do not count towards degrees or other qualifications but are sometimes available over summer, which is useful if you want to start a degree in the first semester.

Special admission and discretionary entrance to courses

Special admission to courses

If you are over 20 years of age you may be eligible for special admission to polytechnic or university courses. Special admission means you are exempt from certain entry criteria.

You can find out if you are eligible by contacting the polytechnic or university you want to attend before applying. Evidence of other study or work skills is often required with your application.

Discretionary entrance

If you don't meet the entry criteria but are under 20 years of age, you may be eligible for discretionary entrance to polytechnic or university courses. However, you will need evidence of academic achievement. Contact the polytechnic or university you want to attend to find out their discretionary entrance criteria.

To gain discretionary entrance you are likely to need a letter of application and a recommendation from your school.

Additional entry requirements

Some tertiary courses have additional entry requirements, especially where admission is competitive or restricted – for example, engineering and medicine. Visit the polytechnic or university's website for more details.

Updated 11 Jan 2017