Eligibility criteria and fees-free coverage

Eligibility criteria and fees-free coverage

Last updated 25 October 2018
Last updated 25 October 2018

This page sets out the eligibility criteria for fees-free in 2018 and 2019. It also includes a summary of fees-free coverage.

To receive fees-free support, a learner needs to meet the relevant eligibility criteria and enrol in an eligible course or industry training programme.

To check their eligibility status, learners need to go to feesfree.govt.nz and enter their National Student Number (NSN).

2018 eligibility criteria

This criteria applies to learners starting eligible study or training in the 2018 calendar year.

Learner eligibility criteria

Provider-based study

A learner eligible for fees-free provider-based study:

  1. is one of the following:
    • a New Zealand citizen, or
    • ordinarily resident in New Zealand and either:
      • have been living in New Zealand for at least three years while holding a residence class visa, or
      • be a refugee or protected person, or
      • be sponsored into New Zealand by someone in their family who, at the time of sponsorship, was a refugee or protected person.
  2. is not concurrently enrolled in a school at the start date of the course or programme (except for those enrolled in school as a returning adult student), and
  3. has either:
    • been enrolled in a school at any time during 2017 or 2018 (all 2017 or 2018 school leavers who meet criteria 1 and 2 above will be eligible for fees-free tertiary education regardless of any prior tertiary study undertaken), except that a returning adult student must meet the prior study criteria below to be eligible for fees-free tertiary education, or
    • 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 Framework (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country, but excluding any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a school, except for returning adult students.

The learner must also be studying an eligible course or programme.

Industry training

A learner eligible for fees-free industry training:

  1. is not concurrently enrolled in a school at the start date of the programme (except for those enrolled in school as a returning adult student), and
  2. has either:
    • been enrolled in a school at any time during 2017 or 2018 (all 2017 or 2018 school leavers who meets criteria 1 above will be eligible for fees-free tertiary education regardless of any prior tertiary study undertaken), except that a returning adult student must meet the prior study criteria below to be eligible for fees-free tertiary education, or
    • not 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 NZQF, including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country, but excluding any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a school, except for returning adult students.

The learner must also enrol in an eligible industry training programme.

Eligible courses and programmes

Provider-based courses

To be eligible for fees-free, a course must start in 2018 and be funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) through either the:

  • Student Achievement Component (SAC) provision at level 3 and above on the NZQF, or
  • Industry Training Fund, or
  • Section 321 grants, administered by the TEC that fund tertiary education organisations to deliver tertiary education provision.

Industry training programmes

To be eligible for fees-free, an industry training programme must start in 2018 and be:

  • on the NZQF at level 3 or above, and
  • approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), and
  • comprise at least 120 credits (this includes all New Zealand Apprenticeships).

2019 eligibility criteria

This criteria applies to learners starting eligible study or training in the 2019 calendar year.

Learners eligible for fees-free (who started eligible study or training in 2018) don’t need to reassess their eligibility for 2019 if continuing in the same type of education. For example, if an eligible learner undertook eligible provider-based study in 2018 and is continuing provider-based study in 2019 they don’t need to reassess their eligibility. Whether the learner is able to receive fees-free support in 2019 will depend on how many EFTS and how much fees-free support they consumed in 2018. For more information on the carrying forward of fees-free entitlements see Carryover settings for 2019.

Learner eligibility criteria

Provider-based study

A learner eligible for fees-free provider-based study is one of the following:

  1. a New Zealand citizen, or
  2. ordinarily resident in New Zealand and:
    • have been living in New Zealand for at least three years while holding a residence class visa, or
    • a refugee or protected person, or
    • sponsored into New Zealand by someone in their family who, at the time of sponsorship, was a refugee or protected person.

The learner must also have either:

  1. been enrolled in a school in or after 2017, other than as an adult student, or
  2. not 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 NZQF, including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any country.

The following credits must not be included in measures of prior tertiary education to determine eligibility for fees-free:

  1. any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in school prior to 1 January 2019 (except for tertiary education undertaken as an adult student), and
  2. any tertiary courses undertaken as part of the student’s or trainee’s school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme on or after 1 January 2019, and
  3. any credits achieved as part of any industry training programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits that are reported after 1 January 2018.

The learner must also be studying an eligible course or programme.

Industry training

To be eligible for fees-free industry training, a trainee must be legally entitled to reside and work in New Zealand.

The learner must also have either:

  1. been enrolled in a school in or after 2017, other than as an adult student, or
  2. not 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 NZQF, including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any country.

The following credits must not be included in measures of prior tertiary education to determine eligibility for fees-free:

  1. any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in school prior to 1 January 2019 (except for tertiary education undertaken as an adult student), and
  2. any tertiary courses undertaken as part of the student’s or trainee’s school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme on or after 1 January 2019, and
  3. any credits achieved as part of any industry training programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits that are reported after 1 January 2018.

The learner must also enrol in an eligible industry training programme.

Eligible courses and programmes

Provider-based courses

To be eligible for fees-free, a course must be:

  1. funded by the TEC from either:
    • the SAC level 3 and above fund, or
    • grants under s321 of the Education Act 1989 for tertiary provision that is part of a qualification or training scheme on the NZQF at level 3 or above, or
    • the Youth Guarantee fund and leads to the award of a qualification on the NZQF at level 3 or above, and
  2. not part of a school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme.

Industry training programmes

To be eligible for fees-free, an industry training programme must be:

  1. at NZQF level 3 or above, and
  2. approved by NZQA, and
  3. comprised of at least 120 credits (which includes all New Zealand Apprenticeships), and
  4. not part of a school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme.

How to check learners' eligibility

You can check a learner’s NSN to find out if they’re eligible for fees-free study and/or training.

  • Go to feesfree.govt.nz and enter a learner’s NSN.
  • Send a list of learner NSNs to feesfreedata@tec.govt.nz for checking (use a .csv file with a header row). We’ll update and return the file to you the next business day. The file will state whether a learner is ‘yes’ (eligible for fees-free), ‘no’ (not eligible for fees-free) or ‘unknown’ (the learner’s status is unknown).

For more detailed instructions, read How to check an NSN for fees-free eligibility (PDF, 881 Kb)

Summary of fees-free coverage

Provider-based study

Fees-free support is capped at $12,000 per learner. In a calendar year there is no EFTS or credit cap. So a fees-free eligible learner can receive up to $12,000 for any eligible provider-based study they undertake in a calendar year.

Learners who undertake less than 1 EFTS (120 credits) and use less than $12,000 of fees-free support in the 2018 calendar year can carry forward their remaining fees-free entitlement (in dollars and EFTS). You can find out more about this in the carryover section.

The fees-free policy covers:

  • tuition fees
  • associated mandatory fees, and
  • compulsory student services fees.

Learners will need to pay other optional and occasional fees such as students association and club memberships, some course materials, and late fees.

This aligns fees-free coverage with current fee regulation and those courses currently covered by the Student Loan Scheme.

Industry training

Eligible learners that start their industry training programme in the 2018 or 2019 calendar years are eligible for their fees to be paid for the first 24 months of the training programme. Fees-free support is capped at $12,000 per learner.

The fees-free policy covers fees for training and assessment, including fees:

  • paid to industry training organisations (ITOs)
  • paid directly to training and assessment providers, or
  • paid as part of fees-charged by group training schemes.