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Education was mostly organised by churches or private enterprise until the 1850s when provincial governments created regional boards of education. Only a few early lists of pupils survive in provincial papers. After abolition of the provinces, central government organisation of education began with the Education Act 1877.

Primary education was the first focus of central government. The Act established twelve regional Education Boards. Each Education Board was responsible for public education in its district and the main concern was primary education. Secondary schools were originally under the direct supervision of the Education Department. Few of their records are held with us. Most records we hold date from the mid 1960s when education boards took on greater responsibility for secondary schools. Universities were set up in different centres from 1869 onwards. In 1961 most colleges became independent self-run universities.


Most school records useful to family historians come from Education Boards. Others have come from the Department of Education, and a few schools have transferred material to us directly. Some schools hold on to their own records, but others have deposited their records in local libraries, museums, or similar institutions throughout the country. Our Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch archives hold Education Board records for their regions. Our Dunedin archive does not. Otago Education Board records are held in the Hocken Library in Dunedin, and Southland Education Board records are held in the Invercargill Public Library.

We hold some records for the following education groups and organisations:

  • Department of Education

  • Education Boards (mainly Primary school records)

  • Teachers (incomplete, mainly Primary)

  • Universities

Department of Education

Education boards

Education Boards were the main way of putting into effect the idea that primary education should be available equally to all New Zealand children. From the Education Act 1877 the regional boards were responsible to central government for running public education in each district.

Their main focus was primary education, but they also controlled district high schools and from 1908 a few technical schools.

The boards increasingly became administrative bodies, acting for the Education Department. They were abolished in 1989. Since then the Ministry of Education and School Boards of Trustees have administered education and schools.

Many surviving Education Board records were transferred to us. Records are held regionally, including those of schools which transferred material directly.

Note: Some school records are held in other institutions, often a local library or archive.

Black and white outline of New Zealand showing Education Board boundaries


University records

Our Wellington archive holds records from both the University of New Zealand and the University Grants Committee. Access to many records is restricted. Records of interest to family historians are:

  • Correspondence files, include references to students and staff, degrees and examiners [ADAU 8743 UNZ10]

  • Registers of Inwards Letters 1870-1910 [ADAU 8745 UNZ12/1-4]

  • Degree records in bound volumes 1902-1961 [AAMJ W3119/156-216]

    • Law degree and Law professional results, 1879-1937 [AAMJ W3119/226-236]

    • Matriculation and University Entrance records, 1872-1963 [AAMJ W3119/260-327]

  • Other degree and diploma results (overall range 1878-1956; most before 1926) [AAMJ W3119/237-258]

  • Professional Accountancy: examination results 1923-1969; student record cards (alphabetical) [AAMJ W3119/382-441]

  • Records and registers (various) of medical and dental students 1883-1953 [AAMJ W3119/217-225]

  • Registers of entries for November examinations 1899-1901 [ADAU 8751 UNZ24/1-3]

  • Registers of student records 1872-1905 (Index volume 24) [ADAU 8747 UNZ20/1-24]

  • Register of undergraduates 1872-1895 [AAMJ W3119/259]

  • Scholarship results 1878-1913 [AAMJ W3119/371-378]

  • Student Record Cards A-Z, 1910s-1950s [AAMJ W3119/1-154]

  • University Entrance and University Bursaries results 1969-1982. Some are alphabetical computer lists; others are the lists, organised by school name, prepared for distribution to the press. [AAMJ W3119/328-372]

  • ‘War Concession’ correspondence 1919-1926, 1939-1958. Organised alphabetically by surname. [ADAU 8744 UNZ11]

There are also Department of Education general files on universities. [ACIG 17240, subseries 27 and 42]


Access to personal student information, such as record cards and examination results, is restricted until 70 years after the last entry. You can seek access permission from:

Portfolio Manager – Academic Programmes

New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee

Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara

Level 9, 142 Lambton Quay PO Box 11915

Wellington 6142