Home | Browse Topics | Individual rights & freedoms | Discrimination | Education

Individual rights & freedoms

Jobs, shops, flats and other areas of life where discrimination is illegal


New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, ss 5, 19

It’s illegal for state schools, universities and polytechs to discriminate against you, unless the particular government policy or action that’s discriminatory is a reasonable limitation on your rights.

Human Rights Act 1993, s 57

It’s also illegal for private schools and tertiary institutions to discriminate against you on any of the illegal grounds of discrimination by:

  • refusing or failing to accept you as a student
  • accepting you on less favourable conditions than those made available to others
  • denying or restricting your access to any benefits or services that the institution provides
  • excluding you as a student or disadvantaging you in some other way.

Exceptions that allow discrimination in private education

Human Rights Act 1993, ss 58–60

These are some of the exceptions that allow private schools and tertiary institutions to discriminate:

  • Institutions for particular groups – Educational institutions can limit access to students of a particular sex, race or religious belief, or to students with a particular disability, or to students in a particular age group.
  • Preference for jobless or particular ages – Preferential access to training facilities can be given to unemployed people and people in particular age groups.
  • Courses and counselling on personal issues – Educational institutions can provide courses and counselling that are restricted to people of a particular sex, race, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation if highly personal issues are involved, such as sex or preventing violence.
  • Disability – A disabled person can be discriminated against if it would be “unreasonable” to require the institution to provide the necessary special facilities. An institution can also discriminate if your impairment presents a risk to yourself or to others, unless the risk can be reduced to a normal level without unreasonable disruption. For information about learning support for disabled students, see the chapter “Disability rights”, under “Education: Access and learning support for disabled and Deaf students”.

Did this answer your question?


Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Human Rights Commission


Human Rights Commission InfoLine

Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Text enquiries: 0210 236 4253

A free phone and email information service that you can use for enquiries about your rights or to make a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993.


You can access pamphlets and fact sheets online or order hard copies from:
Phone: 0800 496 877
Email: resources@hrc.co.nz

Race Relations Commissioner


Phone: 0800 496 877

This section of the Human Rights Commission focuses specifically on ensuring people are not treated unfairly because of their race, ethnicity, skin colour or country of origin.

Human Rights Review Tribunal


This website provides information about the Tribunal and the hearing process and it also has forms, guides and information about fees.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top