Eligibility criteria and what Fees Free covers

Eligibility criteria and what Fees Free covers

Last updated 30 October 2019
Last updated 30 October 2019

This page sets out the eligibility criteria for Fees Free in 2019 and 2020. It also includes the amount, fees and costs covered by Fees Free.

To receive Fees Free, a learner must meet the Fees Free 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).

2019 and 2020 eligibility criteria – provider-based study

These eligibility criteria apply to learners starting study at an institute of technology, polytechnic, private training establishment, university or wānanga in the 2019 or 2020 calendar years.

Learner criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free provider-based study, a learner must be one of the following:

a. a New Zealand citizen, or

b. ordinarily resident in New Zealand and:

i.         have been living in New Zealand for at least three years while holding a residence class visa, or

ii.        a refugee or protected person, or

iii.        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:

a.   been enrolled in a school in or after 2017, other than as an adult student, or

b.   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 New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any country.

An adult student is a person who has had their 19th birthday before 1 January of the current year who enrols or is enrolled in a school. This doesn’t apply to students who are considered to require special education under the Education Act 1989.

The following credits don’t count as prior study:

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

Course criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free, a course must be:

a.   funded by the Tertiary Education Commission from either:

i.        the Student Achievement Component level 3 and above fund, or

ii.       grants under s321 of the Education Act 1989 for tertiary provision that is part of a qualification or training scheme on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) at level 3 or above, or

iii.        the Youth Guarantee Fund, and leading to the award of a qualification on the NZQF at level 3 or above, and

b.   not part of a school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme.

Go to How school learning programmes and secondary-tertiary programmes fit within fees-free settings for the definition of a school learning programme and a secondary-tertiary programme.

2019 and 2020 eligibility criteria – industry training

These eligibility criteria apply to learners starting industry training in the 2019 or 2020 calendar years.

Learner criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free industry training, a learner must be legally entitled to reside and work in New Zealand.

The learner must also have either:

a.   been enrolled in a school in or after 2017, other than as an adult student, or

b.   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 New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any country.

An adult student is a person who has had their 19th birthday before 1 January of the current year who enrols or is enrolled in a school. This doesn’t apply to students who are considered to require special education under the Education Act 1989.

The following credits don’t count as prior study:

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

Programme criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free, a programme must be:

a.   at New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) level 3 or above, and

b.   approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), and

c.    comprised of at least 120 credits (which includes all New Zealand Apprenticeships), and

d.   not part of a school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme.

Go to How school learning programmes and secondary-tertiary programmes fit within fees-free settings for the definition of a school learning programme and a secondary-tertiary programme.

How to check learners' eligibility

You can check a learner’s National Student Number (NSN) to find out if they’re eligible for Fees Free.

  • Go to feesfree.govt.nz and enter a learner’s NSN, or
  • 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)

What Fees Free covers

Provider-based study

In a learner’s first calendar year of Fees Free study they can get up to $12,000 (including GST) for any Fees Free eligible study. There is no equivalent full-time student (EFTS) or credit cap.

Learners who undertake less than 1 EFTS (120 credits) and use less than $12,000 of Fees Free in their first calendar year of study can carry forward their remaining Fees Free entitlement (in dollars and EFTS). You can find out more about this in Carrying forward fees-free entitlement.

The Fees Free policy covers:

  • compulsory tuition fees
  • compulsory course costs, which may only include:
    • examination fees, and
    • material charges, and
    • costs of field trips, and
    • costs associated with the compulsory purchase of equipment or books through the tertiary education organisation with which the student is enrolled, and
    • other charges associated with a course, and
  • compulsory student services fees.

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

This aligns Fees Free coverage with current fee regulation and courses currently covered by the Student Loan Scheme.

Industry training

Eligible learners are eligible for their fees to be paid for the first 24 months of the training programme. Fees Free is capped at $12,000 (including GST) per learner.

The Fees Free policy covers fees for training and assessment, including fees:

  • paid to organisations eligible for funding under the Industry Training Fund
  • paid directly to training and assessment providers, or
  • paid as part of fees charged by group training schemes.