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 half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, 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.
Course and programme criteria
To be eligible for fees-free, a course or programme must start in 2018 and must be:
- 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, at least 120 credits.
Contact your tertiary education organisation if you’re not sure about your course or programme eligibility.
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 in 2018 and may be able to carry over some remaining entitlement into future years. The nature of this future entitlement is yet to be confirmed but may include an EFTS (equivalent full-time student) and/or dollar component. You can find out more about EFTS on StudyLink’s website. As soon as confirmed, information will be provided on feesfree.govt.nz.
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 New Zealand Qualifications Framework, 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 at a New Zealand tertiary education organisation in New Zealand or from overseas (as long as you are eligible including meeting residency criteria and being treated as a domestic student for fees), or on-campus in New Zealand. The course or programme 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?
Learners eligible for fees-free tertiary education can study either part-time or full-time. For example, you could access some fees-free study in 2018 and may be able to carry over some remaining entitlement into future years. The nature of this future entitlement is yet to be confirmed but may include an EFTS (equivalent full-time student) and/or dollar component. You can find out more about EFTS on StudyLink's website. As soon as confirmed, information will be provided on feesfree.govt.nz
I am enrolling with a private training establishment. Will I be eligible for fees-free?
Yes, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria (including residency and previous study criteria) and your programme of study is eligible.
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.
I did NCEA level 3 courses at school. Do they count when assessing the 60 credits of previous study, which is part of the eligibility criteria?
No. Courses done at secondary school for NCEA level 3, or similar qualifications such as International Baccalaureate, do not count towards the 60 credits of previous study. The eligibility criteria for fees-free includes a requirement to not have previously undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, including tertiary education at an equivalent level in any other country. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school.
Also, tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school does not count towards the 60 credit limit.
Can I carry fees-free over to another year?
For both provider-based study and industry-based training and apprenticeships, you can spread your fees-free entitlement over multiple years; however, you cannot “bank” your 2018 fees-free. This means if you start studying or training in 2018 and are eligible for fees-free, you cannot opt to pay for some of your fees yourself and “bank” your fees-free to use later.
Check your tertiary education organisation’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 entitlement.
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.
Is my qualification or programme eligible for fees-free if it started before 2018?
A qualification can be made up of one or more courses.
A qualification that began in 2017 may include some courses that started in 2017, and some that start in 2018.
For provider based study, only the courses that begin in 2018 are eligible for fees-free (providing they meet all the other criteria). The courses that began in 2017 are not.
Industry-based training and apprenticeships
The programme, as a whole, must begin in 2018 to be eligible for fees-free. Learners who began their programme in 2017 or earlier cannot access fees-free for this training because the programme isn’t eligible.
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.
Why am I not eligible for fees-free when I didn’t achieve a pass in or finish my previous course?
If you previously enrolled in a level 3 tertiary education course or programme and:
- did not finish it but did not withdraw from it before the tertiary education organisation’s withdrawal date, or
- you finished the course and did not achieve a pass,
these credits are considered as part of our assessment of prior study you have undertaken.
If you have undertaken or done more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 you are not eligible for fees-free.
You are not eligible for fees-free study or training if you have previously undertaken more than half a year of equivalent full-time tertiary education (0.5 EFTS or 60 credits) at level 3 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework, including tertiary education at an equivalent level in any other country. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a secondary school.
I think I have some fees-free entitlement left over, how can I check?
If you are studying at an institute of technology, polytechnic, private training establishment, university or wānanga in 2018, and:
- you are eligible to receive fees-free, and
- your course or programme is eligible for fees-free
- you did not complete a full-time course of study, which is generally 120 credits based on EFTS (equivalent full-time student) guidelines, and
- your course costs did not reach the maximum of $12,000
you may have some fees-free entitlement left over that you can use in the future.
The nature of this future entitlement is yet to be confirmed but may include an EFTS and dollar component. As soon as this is confirmed, information will be provided on feesfree.govt.nz. This will tell you how you can check your entitlement.
I am an apprentice and enrolled through an industry training organisation (ITO). Am I eligible for fees-free?
If you meet the learner eligibility criteria for industry-based training and your programme meets the course and programme criteria, including that your programme began in 2018, then you are eligible for 2 years’ fees-free.
You can check with your ITO about whether or not your programme is eligible. Note that all level 4 apprenticeship programmes offered by ITOs are covered by the fees-free policy.
I am an apprentice and enrolled through a polytechnic. Am I eligible for fees-free?
If you meet the learner eligibility criteria for provider-based study and your programme meets the course and programme criteria, including that your course began in 2018, then you are eligible for 1 year’s fees-free up to a maximum of $12,000.
You can check with your polytechnic about whether or not your course is eligible. Note that all level 4 apprenticeships offered by polytechnics are covered by the fees-free policy.
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 compulsory course costs, 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.
Industry-based training and apprenticeships
For industry trainees and apprentices, the fees-free policy will cover up to two years of fees paid by eligible trainees and apprentices 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 apprentices 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 New Zealand Qualifications Framework 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 for 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 is 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 I do if I 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 are there residency requirements?
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 commitment to New Zealand.
If you are an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or a New Zealand permanent resident but you haven’t lived in New Zealand for three years or more while holding a residence class visa, you are not eligible for fees-free tertiary education. However, you may still receive tuition subsidies as a domestic student.
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.
How long will it take for my statutory declaration to be processed?
Your statutory declaration will be processed, and you will be notified, within two business days.
Where should I email my signed and witnessed statutory declaration?
If your NSN is on your signed and witnessed statutory declaration form, you can scan or photograph it and:
- attach it to a reply to the email we sent you, or
- email it to [email protected].
If there is no NSN on the form, email a scanned copy of your signed and witnessed statutory declaration to your industry training organisation. They will assign you an NSN and forward this and your signed declaration to [email protected] on your behalf.
Who is authorised to witness my signing of the statutory declaration?
You need to sign your statutory declaration in front of one of the following people (note that they also need to sign the form and state their position which authorises them to witness you making your declaration).
In New Zealand, they include a:
- Justice of the Peace (JP) - Find a JP
- barrister or solicitor - Find a lawyer
- legal executive employed by a barrister or solicitor
- notary public - Find a notary public, or
- Registrar or Deputy Registrar of the District Court or the High Court - Find a District Court or High Court
Outside New Zealand, they include a:
- notary public
- representative at a New Zealand Embassy
- Commonwealth representative at an embassy, or
- if you are in a Commonwealth country, Justice of the Peace or Commissioner of Oaths.
I am a learner, who can I contact for more general information about fees-free?
For general fees-free enquiries you can phone StudyLink Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm on 0800 687 775 or visit their Contact us web page.
I am a tertiary education organisation, where can I go for more information about fees-free?
For more information, or if you need some help, call 0800 687 775.