Fees Free tertiary education aims to make the first year of tertiary education or training fees-free for first-time learners. Learners must meet the prior study and training eligibility criteria to ensure that they meet the intent of the policy as new learners.

Please confirm your eligibility status by visiting the homepage and entering your National Student Number (NSN).

If your eligibility status is ‘Maybe’ and you still have questions about your own circumstances after reviewing this information about the prior study and training eligibility criteria, please contact us at [email protected].

To be eligible for Fees Free a learner must meet the citizenship or residency criteria and the prior study and training criteria

The prior study and training criteria requires that a learner must have either:

  1. been enrolled in a school in or after 2021, other than as an adult learner, or
  2. not undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 equivalent full-time student (EFTS) or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications and Credentials Framework (NZQCF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any country.

All prior tertiary enrolments are considered when determining a learner’s eligibility

To have ‘undertaken’ study or training, a learner must have previously enrolled in tertiary education. For the purposes of Fees Free eligibility, this includes:

  • study or training undertaken in New Zealand and overseas.
  • part-time and full-time study or training
  • workplace training and apprenticeships
  • New Zealand study or training that pre-dates the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or the NZQCF
  • incomplete study or training, including where a learner withdrew after the refund period
  • study or training that received a fail grade
  • study or training as a domestic or international student
  • study or training that had no fees associated with it undertaken before 1 January 2023, and
  • study or training that you may have paid for yourself or accessed (or repaid) a student loan for.

The following does not count as prior study:

  • Tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in school prior to 1 January 2019 (except for tertiary education undertaken as an adult learner).
  • Tertiary courses undertaken as part of your school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme on or after 1 January 2019.
  • Credits achieved as part of any work-based programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits that are achieved after 1 January 2018.
  • any courses or credentials funded by the TEC undertaken after 1 January 2023 that had zero tuition fees and zero compulsory course costs.
  • Tertiary education and training for which fees were covered by the Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF).
  • Tertiary education undertaken through the Youth Guarantee programme after 1 July 2020.
  • Tertiary education undertaken through the Maori and Pasifika Trades Training programme after 1 July 2020.
  • Tertiary education undertaken through the Refugee English Fund.

Overseas study or training

Tertiary education undertaken in any other country counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility. This demonstrates you are not a first-time learner.

This may include post-compulsory education and training, vocational, technical or academic pathways.

Part-time study or training

All study and training - whether undertaken part-time or full-time - at or equivalent to NZQCF level 3 or above counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility. This demonstrates you are not a first-time learner.

Work-place training and apprenticeships

Industry or workplace training at or equivalent to NZQF level 3 or above counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility.

Credits that have been awarded in the workplace, including on-the-job or industry training, count towards previous achievement because you have had the benefit of the training and cannot be considered a first-time learner.

However, any credits achieved as part of any work-based programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits (that are achieved after 1 January 2018) do not count as prior study.

New Zealand study or training that pre-dates the New Zealand Qualifications Authority NZQA or the NZQCF

Study or training in New Zealand that predates the NZQA or NZQCF counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility. This demonstrates you are not a first-time learner.

Incomplete, unsuccessful, or withdrawn study or training

Study or training that you did not successfully complete (including withdrawing after the fee-refund period), or successfully achieve (including fail grades) counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility. This demonstrates you are not a first-time learner.

Study or training in New Zealand as an international student

We do not consider a learner’s domestic or international status when determining eligibility.

Any tertiary study or training in New Zealand as an international student at or equivalent to NZQF level 3 or above counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility. This demonstrates you are not a first-time learner.

Free courses and those with zero fees

All study and training at or equivalent to NZQCF level 3 or above undertaken before 1 January 2023 counts as prior study and training and is included when determining eligibility. This is regardless of whether fees were associated with the course, whether you paid the fees directly, or you have ever accessed (or repaid) a Student Loan. This demonstrates you are not a first-time learner.

Courses with zero fees undertaken on or after 1 January 2023 no longer count as prior study.

The Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund

The Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF), also known as free trades training, supported learners to undertake vocational education and training without fees between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2022. Study and training that was eligible for TTAF and undertaken between these dates is not counted as prior study.

Study and training that was undertaken prior to 1 July 2020 or after 31 December 2022 is counted as prior study, as it was not covered by the TTAF.

NZQA Record of Achievement

For the purposes of determining Fees Free eligibility, the NZQA New Zealand Record of Achievement (NZROA) is not a definitive source of a learner’s prior study and training.

This is because a NZROA:

  • only shows tertiary standards-based credits achieved at an institute of technology, polytechnic, private training establishment, or wānanga.
  • records unit standards and national qualifications achieved from 1993 onwards, and provider developed qualifications from 2011 onwards.
  • does not show credits that were attempted but not achieved, withdrawals, or credits undertaken at a university.
  • may not reflect up-to-date credit achievement.

Credits at Levels 1 or 2 contributing to a qualification at Level 3 and above

For the purposes of Fees Free eligibility, prior study is assessed based on the level of qualification they contribute to. Qualifications can include credits at either a lower or higher level than the overall qualification. Where this occurs, all credits are assessed at the level of the qualification.

English language tuition through the Refugee English Fund

If a learner doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria because of study undertaken through the Refugee English Fund, they are able to request an eligibility review.

Learners should enter their National Student Number (NSN) on the Fees Free homepage and fill in the form to request an eligibility review.

For more information, please review the FAQ page.