Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says universities in Canterbury have indicated they won't reopen for students before 14 March.
He says both Canterbury and Lincoln universities intend to provide a full academic programme this year.
Mr Joyce says the campuses are in reasonable condition and are connected to water and sewerage.
He says the challenge the universities face is whether the city can support the large numbers of students.
Mr Joyce says Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, which is in the city centre, is working on alternative arrangements for students.
Canterbury University confident
The University of Canterbury is confident it can still deliver a full programme to students this year.
Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr says there has been relatively little damage to the campus, which has power and water, though the university's 2000 staff have suffered like the rest of the community and some have left the city.
He says he's aware some students are making plans to enrol elsewhere, but he hopes they'll wait until the end of next week when the university will have a better idea of its plan for the year.