Revealed: Top Schools in New Zealand for Entry to World’s Best Universities

A private school again tops a list of New Zealand colleges judged on student achievement.

ACG Parnell College beat 50 schools evaluated by private tutoring company Crimson Education for giving its students the best access to top universities like Stanford and Harvard.

Last year’s winner, Kristin School, dropped to third place, while St. Cuthbert’s College stayed in second place.

Meanwhile, Baradene College of the Sacred Heart moved up from 16th to 8th place, achieving 50 scholarships and an NCEA excellence rate of 53% – the highest in the country. All of the top 10 schools are in Auckland with the exception of Woodford House in Havelock North.

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ACG director Damian Watson: “Proud as a punch”.

Crimson’s fifth annual ranking used data from 2021 to assess academic achievement, extracurricular opportunities and equal access for students. These three factors contribute to the chances of students at universities like Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge, they say.

This year’s top 10 consisted of six private, two state and two state-integrated schools – the highest number of state schools in the ranking so far.

ACG director Damian Watson says “top school” has a nice ring to it, but is quick to point out that it’s just one of many good schools in New Zealand.


Adam Zhu, a 13th-grade student at Christ’s College, says schools in New Zealand are more “student-centric” than in China.

“Our mission statement is to put teaching and learning at the heart of what we do – that sounds like a simple focus and in a way it is. Our students are truly dedicated to their subjects; They do their best and that goes a long way.”

Also contributing to the success of ACG are employees who are specialists in their fields and are passionate about sharing them with the students.

“They have a passion for teaching and that’s a huge help – it’s contagious. They know their stuff and give their students confidence.”

With many of his students looking to study abroad, Watson says internationally recognized qualifications will certainly help them get there, and while good grades are also helpful, any applicant will have them.

Kristin School/Delivered

The Kristin School dropped two spots to third place in this year’s ranking. Earlier this year, senior high school student Asher Goddard celebrated a perfect result in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, placing in the top 1% of students worldwide. Pictured with Headmaster David Boardman.

“The best universities also look for young people who are passionate about learning and their chosen subjects. If you can imagine the excitement of a teacher in the classroom, colleges need to see that in their students… That they love this subject so much they will put their hearts into it.”

Also in demand are students who are committed to the university and its wider community, for example through athletic leadership and services.

When asked if private schools had an advantage over government schools, Watson replied that he could only speak for ACG.

“As an independent school, we have more freedom to take an approach that works for our community — a little more leeway. Also, maybe we can dictate our culture, our approach to education and some of the programs, that helps too.”

And while he says it’s important to note that many public schools score similarly well, he’s pleased with ACG’s placement.

“Like any principal, I’m as proud as Punch when I hear that students do great things when they leave – that’s what any principal wants.”

Rangitoto College principal Patrick Gale says he is delighted with the public school’s ranking, which has jumped from 23rd to 10th in the past three years and is now sixth.

Five International Baccalaureate (IB) results out of 40 plus 244 NCEA scholarships and 34 outstanding scholarships ensured success. Crimson also ranked Rangitoto first on diversity, equality and processes.

“We’ve always tried to improve what we offer… As a big school, we can offer our students a really wide range of options – which means they have a lot of choice in their studies.”

Coeducational colleges like Rangitoto allow young men and women to grow up together and learn from each other, he says. “It’s a true reflection of real life.”

And while public colleges outnumber private schools in the top 10, Gale says we shouldn’t give that too much weight.

“Private schools certainly have more money and benefit from better resources and lower quotas. I don’t know if there is any evidence that their teachers are better – ours are great.

“If you get the approach right, a public school can be fantastic; New Zealand should be proud that we have such a low percentage of students who attend private schools.”

Crimson CE Jamie Beaton says private schools continue to dominate the top 10 and of the single-sex schools, three are girls’ schools and the remaining seven are co-educational. All of the top 25 fall between the 8th and 10th deciles.

The 10 best schools in New Zealand. (Numbers in brackets indicate the change compared to the previous year’s rankings.)

ACG Parnell College (+3)

St Cuthbert’s College (0)

Kristin School (-2)

Pinehurst School (-1)

Diocesan School for Girls (0)

Rangitoto College (+4)

St Kentigern College (-1)

Baradene College of the Sacred Heart (+8)

Woodford House (+2)

Maclean’s College (-3)

A full list of the 50 schools evaluated can be found here.