What are the eligibility criteria?
Learner criteria for provider-based study
To be eligible for fees-free study with a university, institute of technology or polytechnic, wānanga or private training establishment, you must:
- be a New Zealand citizen, or
- be ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and either:
- have been living in New Zealand for at least 3 years while holding a residence class visa, or
- be a refugee or protected person, or
- be sponsored into New Zealand by someone in your family who, at the time you were sponsored, was a refugee or protected person, and
You must also be studying an eligible qualification, course or programme.
Learner criteria for industry-based training
To be eligible for fees-free industry-based training, you must:
- be legally employed in New Zealand
- not be currently enrolled in a school at the start date of the programme
- not have previously undertaken more than 60 credits (half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education or 0.5 EFTS) at level 3 or above on the NZQF, including tertiary education at an equivalent level in any other country. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school.
You must also enrol in an eligible industry training programme.
Qualification, course and programme criteria
To be eligible for fees-free, a qualification, course or programme must be:
- starting in 2018
- funded by the Tertiary Education Commission
- recognised by either the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or Universities New Zealand
- at Level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, and
- for industry training only, be at least 120 credits.
What period is covered for provider-based study?
Fees-free for 2018 covers courses and programmes beginning in 2018. You can begin your study in 2018 and complete your study later. For example, you could access fees-free study for 60 credits / 0.5 EFTS in 2018 and another 60 credits / 0.5 EFTS in another year.
What period is covered for industry training?
Fees-free for 2018 covers eligible programmes beginning in 2018 for up to two years. You can begin your training any time in 2018 and you will be eligible for your next 24 months fees-free.
Are there any age requirements?
No, there are no age requirements or restrictions.
I have studied overseas. Am I still eligible?
It is unlikely you will be eligible for fees-free study in New Zealand if you have an overseas qualification.
However, if you have studied overseas and that study was equivalent to no more than 60 credits (half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education, 0.5 EFTS) at level 3 or above on the NZQF, you may be eligible. This excludes any tertiary education studied while enrolled in a school.
You will still need to meet all the other eligibility requirements for fees-free.
Will I be eligible if I am studying from overseas?
You can study extramurally (in New Zealand or from overseas) or on-campus in New Zealand. The course or qualification must also be recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority or Universities New Zealand, and be funded through the Tertiary Education Commission. People enrolled at a tertiary education organisation not recognised in New Zealand are not eligible for fees-free.
Will I be eligible for fees-free if I study part time?
You can study full-time or part-time and be eligible for fees-free. If you study fewer than 120 credits (such as through part-time study, or full time study towards a 80 credit qualification), you can spread your fees-free study out. For example, you could access fees-free study for 0.5 EFTS / 60 credits over one year and another 0.5 EFTS / 60 credits over another year.
I am enrolling with a private training establishment. Will I be eligible for fees-free?
Yes, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria, e.g. your programme of study meets the eligibility requirements and you satisfy the criteria regarding residency and previous study.
Will I be eligible for fees-free if I’m enrolled in a secondary school while completing a tertiary education course?
No. A range of other support is available for school students who wish to begin tertiary study before they finish school. Tertiary study undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school will not count against students’ future eligibility for fees-free tertiary education.
I have been at school in 2017 and did a tertiary level course as part of my study. Will I be eligible for fees-free?
Yes. The fees-free policy will not penalise people who take tertiary courses while at secondary school. These courses are not counted as previous tertiary study for the purpose of assessing someone’s “first time study” status.
Can I carry fees-free over to another year?
You can spread your fees-free 1 EFTS or 120 credits over multiple years if you are studying at a provider; however, you cannot “bank” your 2018 fees-free. This means if you start study in 2018 and are eligible for fees-free study, you cannot opt to pay for some of your studies yourself and “bank” your fees-free study to use later.
Check your provider’s refund policy before you start your programme. This is important in case you decide to withdraw at a later date as it may affect your future fees-free allowance.
For industry trainees and apprentices, fees free covers up to the first two years of your programme.
I’m going to summer school in December this year, can I qualify for fees-free?
Fees-free tertiary education applies to study beginning after 1 January 2018. You will be able to access fees-free study for any programme you commence after 1 January 2018 if you have not previously undertaken more than 0.5 EFTS / 60 credits.
How much are credits worth in terms of the equivalent full-time student (EFTS)?
Usually, 0.125 EFTS is equivalent to 15 credits or points, and so 0.5 EFTS would be equivalent to half a year of full-time study for most students and one EFTS would usually be equivalent to one year’s full-time study. You can find out more about EFTS on StudyLink’s website.
What’s included in fees-free?
How much study can I get fees-free in 2018?
The Government’s intention is for the policy to cover one year’s study or two years industry training, which is usually 1 EFTS / 120 credits. 1 EFTS is approximately 120 credits or points. You can find out more information about EFTS on StudyLink’s website.
Some people study more or less than 1 EFTS in a year. The Government will fund fees up to $12,000 for study in a year. This limit is expected to affect around 1% of first-time students.
What sorts of fees will be covered by fees-free?
The fees-free policy for tertiary education will pay:
- Tuition fees and associated mandatory fees, and
- Compulsory student services fees
This aligns fees-free coverage with current fee regulation and the coverage of the fees component of student loans. Students may be asked to pay other optional and occasional fees such as students’ association and club memberships, some course materials, and late fees.
Fee regulation continues to apply to fees-free courses: in 2018, providers can increase fees by no more than two percent compared to 2017.
For industry trainees and apprentices, the fees-free policy will cover up to two years of fees paid by eligible trainees and their employers for training and assessment, including fees paid to Industry Training Organisations or directly to training and assessment providers. The policy will not cover other fees and charges paid by eligible trainees and their employers, including professional registration and occupational licensing fees, or charges for other services such as those provided by group training schemes.
Why can’t lower level courses be covered by fees-free?
The policy focuses fees-free on quality-assured programmes that are considered to be a good investment for New Zealand and for students. It aligns fees-free eligibility with student support and government tuition subsidies, and limits fees-free to courses with regulated fees.
Foundation programmes (at NZQF levels 1-2) are excluded because provider-based level 1-2 study is already fees-free, and students shouldn’t have to use their fees-free entitlement on courses intended to prepare for tertiary study at level 3 and above.
Why do courses have to be recognised and funded to be available fees-free?
Fees free was designed to help New Zealanders have access to good quality tertiary education that provides skills for life and work. When a course is both recognised by NZQA or Universities New Zealand, and funded by the Tertiary Education Commission it means the course of a good educational standard.
Why is the industry training requirement set at 120 credits?
The 120 credit minimum will help ensure training programmes have career benefits for trainees, and will avoid trainees using up their fees-free entitlement on short programmes required (and usually paid for) by employers.
I am eligible for fees free, but not enrolled. What do I do next?
Go and enrol in an eligible qualification, course or programme! You don’t have to do anything else to access fees-free study or training.
The Tertiary Education Commission will pay the fees to your tertiary education provider or to your industry training organisation, up to a maximum of $12,000 incl GST per year.
Already enrolled for 2018?
What do I do if I am eligible for fees-free, but I have already enrolled in study or training for 2018?
You don’t have to do anything to access fees-free. The Tertiary Education Commission will pay your fees as follows:
- to your tertiary education provider to cover eligible courses; or
- to your industry training organisation to cover eligible industry training programmes
- in each case, the TEC will pay up to the $12,000 per year.
What do I do if I find I am eligible for fees-free, but I have already taken out a student loan for my fees for 2018?
If you’re eligible for fees-free – you don’t need to do anything further.
If you’re not eligible, or your fees are more than $12,000, and you still need your fees paid from your loan, you can let StudyLink know by changing your ‘Pay fees’ details in MyStudyLink.
Don’t cancel your loan application completely if you will still need to borrow for living costs or course-related costs. If you were only applying for fees and no longer need a Student Loan you can call StudyLink on 0800 88 99 00 to cancel your application.
Do I still need to apply to StudyLink to access fees-free study?
No, the fees will be paid directly to your tertiary provider by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). But if you wish to apply for a student allowance or the two non-fees parts of a student loan (living costs and course-related costs) for 2018, then you will still need to apply to StudyLink.
It is your choice whether to apply for a student allowance or loan living costs and course-related costs, but if you plan to do so StudyLink encourages prospective students to apply by 16 December 2017, and to provide supporting documents promptly (you can apply online). This will ensure that applications can be assessed in time for the start of the 2018 academic year.
What do I do if I have already paid fees to an education provider when I was eligible for fees-free?
If you have already paid fees for 2018 and find out that you didn’t have to do this because you are eligible for fees-free, you should approach the provider and ask for a refund. You are entitled to a refund of the amount you have paid to do a course starting on or after 1 January 2018, up to the value of the $12,000 fees-free cap.
Providers have been informed of your right to a refund. The provider will receive Government funding to cover your fees up to the cap.
How will the fees-free policy relate to New Zealand scholarships?
New Zealand Scholarships are administered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). If you are eligible for the one year of fees-free tertiary education, you will still be granted the monetary award for any New Zealand Scholarships you receive. You can read about the eligibility requirements for New Zealand Scholarships on NZQA’s website.
What should students do if they have a scholarship for 2018?
Scholarship providers are responsible for administering their own scholarships. If you have been awarded a scholarship for 2018, then we recommend you contact the awarding body to discuss your situation. You could ask the awarding body if the scholarship can be used for living or course related costs other than fees, or if it can be used in the second year of study.
Where to get more help
How can I get my National Student Number (NSN)?
If you are currently at school, you can ask your school for your NSN.
You can also contact the NZQA on 0800 697 296 (between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday) or by email through the NZQA website.
What do I do if I’m not sure how much previous study I’ve done?
If you need help confirming your previous study, contact NZQA on 0800 697 296 (between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday) or your previous education provider/industry training organisation.
What should I do if I’m not sure of my residency status?
If you need help with determining your residency status, contact Immigration New Zealand through its contact centre on 0508 558 855.
Note that Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents are automatically considered to have a residence class visa.
Why have these residency requirements been put in place?
The policy aligns fees-free eligibility for provider-based tertiary education with other student support, such as student loans and allowances. It helps ensure that fees-free support is directed to those who have established an enduring attachment to New Zealand.
Residents (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) who haven’t lived in New Zealand for at least three years while holding a residence class visa still receive tuition subsidies as domestic students.
Why don’t residency requirements apply to industry trainees and apprentices?
Fees free eligibility for industry training is aligned with eligibility for other industry training funding. Anyone working legally in New Zealand can access industry training, if their employer is willing to invest in and support this.