Since 1989, when it became legally possible for private higher education to operate in New Zealand, the sector has grown to become a significant part of the country's higher education system. This paper explores the private penetration, traces the changes that have occurred in private higher education, and evaluate the sector's position in New Zealand today. The private sector has had to find a niche for itself in a higher education sector dominated by a mature, well developed public sector. In so doing, New Zealand's private higher education exhibits differences and similarities with private higher education sector internationally. The New Zealand case is one of private entry into a mature higher education system in an economically advanced country. Emphasis is also placed on the dissimilarities between the private sector and the more predominant public tertiary education institutions in New Zealand. It is clear from this study that the private sector has characteristics that clearly distinguish it from the public higher education sector in New Zealand.