Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are a group of 15 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. For this reason, the country’s education system is closely similar to the one in New Zealand. In the Cook Islands there is one vocational institute (Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute) and one university with which the Ministry of Education collaborates (University of the South Pacific). The latter is an international centre with campuses in other 11 islands across the Pacific Ocean and with its main campus in Fiji. For both institutions enrolment rates have been growing exponentially in the last years. If in 2013 only 15% were enrolled for one course at the institute, in 2018 the percentage rose to 71.9%. USP Cook Islands has 469 students enrolled in 2019. Moreover, the University of the South Pacific is well ranked and can be found within top 50 universities in Oceania. For further information, the Ministry of Education’s website is available at

Educational Structure
Because it is a vocational institute, the Cook Islands Tertiary Training Institute only offers accredited and short courses aimed at practical learning in Hospitality and Service or Trades and Technology. There are also other subjects available online like Computer Science or Business Administration. Qualifications gained from these courses are recognised internationally and offer the possibility to enter the work force earlier than a university degree but are not considered as such. For more information about application and fees you can access their website at

The University of the South Pacific in the Cook Islands offers Bachelor’s degrees but also other shorter programmes like foundation degrees, certificates and diplomas. You have a considerable range of options for the shorter programmes and Bachelor’s in Chinese, Education, History, Law, Linguistics, Language Tracks and Pacific Policing.  Undergraduate studies have 24 courses whereas the pre-undergraduate ones range between 4 to 13 courses. The academic year is organised into two semesters which run for 18 weeks or 3 semesters which run for 12 weeks between February to December. For a full-time student the academic year is worth 60 credits. A credit point is the equivalent of 25-30 student learning hours.

Applicants for the undergraduate courses should either have passed the Senate-recognised Year 13/Form 7 Certificate Examination or its equivalent, have passed the USP Foundation Programme or have met the mature student admission criteria (you will have to sit an admission exam). International students should also make sure that they possess a language proficiency certificate in English. Registration period takes places no later than the first Friday since the semester has started. Certain subjects might be required for specific courses or other types of assessments. The most spoken language on the islands is English followed by Maori, both being official languages.

Tuition fees are will differ from course to course and student to student since there are native and non-native fees. Generally, you will have to pay between $320 to $570 per course which is not at all expensive. Moreover, the universities’ available choices of scholarships can be viewed here

Information for International Students
In terms of living costs, a single person is expected to spend around $2,000 per month. It is generally more expensive to live in Avarua, the national capital city, than in cities like Baltimore and Auckland, but about the same as it is in London. Rent can be as expensive as $1,270 per month. Overall, there is not much to choose from when it comes to tertiary education in the Cook Islands, but high quality is assured. The remote islands are home to spectacular sceneries and unforgettable experiences and have called themselves “a little South Pacific Paradise”.