Application Anxiety? Read our field guide to joining MDS in 2022.

Navigating NCEA can be challenging enough, before you even think about throwing a global pandemic into the mix. We’re really feeling for all of those students who are busy preparing for external exams, as well as applying for further study in 2022. Here at MDS, we want to make that process as painless as possible by helping you explore your entry options.

We’ve put together a handy guide to help you learn more about Discretionary Entrance for Year 12s and 13s, Changes to NCEA Credits and Scholarships.

We hope this helps to simplify the process for our future students and we can’t wait to welcome you all into our creative community.  For the Year 13s of 2021, they've followed in the footsteps of their predecessors and come out the other end of another tough year stronger and more determined than ever.

As MDS Chairman Linda Brown said, “The upheaval and changes mean that students are learning invaluable life skills – skills that are not usually taught in the classroom.

Students are learning how to manage change, how to communicate with people across boundaries and how to manage time in a flexible environment. This is about adaptability, creativity, resilience and grit.  These are smart skills, and they are vital for tomorrow’s workplace. The adversity young students face today, will serve them well in the opportunities they seek out in the future.”

With that in mind, we’re more excited than ever to see what you might create as MDS’s next designers, artists, programmers and animators.  Read on to find out some of the ways you can join us in 2022.  

Changes to NCEA Credits

In 2020, NZQA put into place a Learning Recognition System designed to help students achieve positive outcomes and endorsements in what has been a highly disruptive school year. 

The requirements for University Entrance (UE) have been reduced from 14 to 12 credits in three UE-approved subjects.  Endorsement requirements have also been altered, which is great news for any students hoping to join MDS under discretionary entrance.  


Learning Recognition and Endorsements - The Essentials 

Because of the different Alert Levels between regions, the Learning Recognition system looks a little different for students in Auckland, compared to those outside of Auckland.

  • If schools and kura are disrupted by Alert Levels 3 or 4 for a total of 20 or more school days, Learning Recognition Credits will become available at the same rates and levels as originally announced in 2020.
  • For every 5 credits a student earns towards their NCEA through assessment, they would be entitled to one extra Learning Recognition Credit to acknowledge the disruption to their learning.
  • Students undertaking NCEA Level 1 would be eligible for up to a maximum of 10 additional credits, while those at Levels 2 or 3 would be eligible for up to a maximum of 8 additional credits

Certificate and Course Endorsements

  • If the Alert Level threshold is met, the Government has also decided to apply the same adjusted thresholds as originally announced in 2020 for students to be awarded Certificate and Course Endorsements, and University Entrance.
  • For Certificate Endorsements, this would mean achieving 46 credits at Merit or Excellence level, instead of the usual 50.
  • Course Endorsements would require 12 credits at Achieved or Merit or Excellence level in a course, rather than 14 – though students would still need to achieve at least 3 credits from external assessment and 3 from internal assessment (where these requirements usually apply).

University Entrance

  • To be awarded University Entrance, students would need to achieve 12 - rather than 14 - credits in each of 3 University Entrance Approved Subjects. Students would still need to attain NCEA Level 3 and meet literacy and numeracy requirements.

You can read the full description of NCEA changes in 2021 here. 

Find out more about how a course endorsement can help you to expedite your application in the Discretionary Entrance section below. 


What is Discretionary Entrance?

Discretionary entrance means meeting alternative entry criteria for one of our programmes. We take into consideration your existing credits and your academic performance at Level 2, as well as reviewing your portfolio. Successful applicants are guaranteed a spot in their chosen MDS Bachelor’s programme, without needing to rely on attaining University Entrance. For Year 13 students, this could mean securing your place even before you sit your external exams.  For Year 12 students, this could mean heading straight into your Bachelor’s Degree as early as March next year. 

What are the criteria? 

To be eligible for discretionary entrance into an MDS Bachelor’s programme, students need to have, or be on track to have:

  • An Excellence Endorsement in art/design subjects at Level 2, AND 
  • Literacy and Numeracy requirements, i.e.: 10 credits in Maths at Level 1 and 10 credits in English at Level 2 (5 reading/ 5 writing).

For Year 13 students
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible for early unconditional discretionary entrance.  You will need to supply a portfolio and letter of intent as part of your application. 

If you’re not awarded discretionary entrance for 2022, you’ll be considered based on whether or not you achieve University Entrance (UE) in Year 13.  If you don’t meet UE requirements upon completion of your Level 3 studies, you’ll automatically be awarded a supplementary offer into our Digital Creativity Foundation Programme as a direct pathway into an MDS Bachelor’s programme in 2023. 

For Year 12 students
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible for early discretionary entrance.  This offer will be conditional on completion of Level 2 and an excellence endorsement in Art/Design related subjects.  You will need to supply a portfolio and letter of intent as part of your application. It is also highly recommended that students considering early entry into tertiary studies supply a letter of recommendation from a faculty member at your high school

If you are not awarded discretionary entrance for 2022, you will automatically be awarded a supplementary offer into our Digital Creativity Foundation Programme as a direct pathway into an MDS Bachelor’s programme in 2023. 


Media Design School has a range of scholarships available for 2022. Applications do have deadlines, so if you’re considering putting yourself forward make sure to get your application in sooner rather than later. 

You’ll find detailed information on all of our scholarships here.

As always, if you have any additional questions, get in touch with our friendly admissions team.