‌If you qualify for University Entrance, but plan on studying a subject you don't feel confident in, or if you have been away from study for a while, then the Headstart pre-university catch-up programme may be for you.

Headstart runs over the summer after NCEA results come out, usually in late January to early February.

Mathematics and statistics are both vital subjects if you intend to major in engineering, commerce, or any of the sciences including health sciences, psychology or forestry.

Physics and/or chemistry are key subjects if you intend to major in the physical sciences, biochemistry or engineering.

The Headstart Academic Skills course will prepare you for lecture note-taking, library research, and essay writing. It will be especially useful if you are aiming at the Arts, Humanities or Law.

Headstart courses are designed to prepare you for 100-level study at UC. While the courses are very likely to be helpful if you are aiming for health sciences or veterinary science at other universities, we cannot guarantee that they will be entirely suitable preparation.

Headstart courses do not constitute an entry qualification and do not contribute credit points towards a degree.

Headstart FAQs

Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for Headstart courses.

Qualification structure and duration

Headstart courses are 2-weeks long and cover essential pre-university material - generally equivalent to NCEA level 2, or Cambridge AS level.

All courses are very intensive. Each course will require you to complete extra work in your own time. For that reason, you cannot enrol in more than one course per fortnight without prior approval from the course coordinator. (Exception: you can study physics and supplementary physics concurrently).

Headstart: Academic Skills

This course focuses on key study skills invaluable to all university students, such as:

  • How to take good lecture notes
  • How to write effective essays or lab reports
  • How to make good use of information, libraries and computer technology
  • How to revise and prepare for university-level tests and examinations

Headstart: Subject-related Courses

Course options offered:

  • Basic Chemistry
  • Further Chemistry (approximates to NCEA level 3)
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Supplementary Physics
  • Statistics

If you have NCEA level 1 in the relevant subject, or some credits at level 2, Headstart is right for you.

If you have good, recent results at NCEA level 2, contact Transition Programmes to discuss whether or not you need Headstart.

If you have a strong, recent background in a subject at NCEA level 3 or equivalent, you don’t need Headstart, and will not benefit from it.

If you have no background in your chosen subject, you may find Headstart challenging. You may need to do some preliminary study before attending the course. Contact Transition Programmes to find out more.

How to apply

Courses start dates and application deadlines (click on subject links for more information): 

Enrol online

Select the course you want to study from the list above and add it to your enrolment cart. Continue to add courses if you want to take more than one course.

Headstart courses are not approved for student loans or allowances.

Pay for your course using our secure online payment system. You are then immediately enrolled in the courses you've paid for.

Enrol via post

Complete the Headstart enrolment form and post it with your payment to:

Transition Programmes
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

If you are waiting for NCEA results to come out, you can enrol in Headstart to ensure a place, then withdraw and get a refund (less $20 admin. fee) if you find you don’t need it. Popular courses have limited entry, while courses with low enrolments might be cancelled, so we strongly advise early enrolment.


To qualify for a refund of fees for a Headstart course, you must withdraw in writing; email phyllis.mowe@canterbury.ac.nz.

If your written withdrawal is received before the course start date, or no later than 72 hours after the commencement of the first class, we will refund your course fee less a $20 administration charge. After that time, no refunds will be made.

2017 Headstart Timetable with Venues

2017 Headstart Timetable

More information

For more information about Headstart courses contact Transition Programmes:

Transition Programmes
Email transitionprogrammes@canterbury.ac.nz
Phone +64 3 369 3337

Postal address
Transition Programmes
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

For assistance with planning your programme of study contact the Course Coordinator:
Phyllis Mowe
Email phyllis.mowe@canterbury.ac.nz