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:

The following does not count as prior study:

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 NZQF
  • 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, and
  • study or training that you may have paid for yourself or accessed (or repaid) a student loan for.

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 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.

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 industry training programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits (that are reported 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 NZQF

Study or training in New Zealand that predates the NZQA or NZQF 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 NZQF level 3 or above 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.

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.