Guidance

Guidance

Last updated 11 December 2018
Last updated 11 December 2018

This page includes information resources for tertiary education organisations.

Information guides

Monthly newsletters

We send out monthly fees-free newsletters, with key updates and helpful tips for implementing fees-free. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, please email sectorhelpdesk@tec.govt.nz to request this.

Instructional video

Step-by-step instructions for how to report withdrawals in the Fees Free All Enrolments and Costs return template:

How to report withdrawals for Fees Free learners (YouTube, 10:19 mins)

This video is targeted at private training establishments (PTEs) however other providers may also find the information useful.

Questions and answers

Eligibility

Q. Are there any age requirements?

A. No, there are no age requirements or restrictions.

Q. Why must industry training programmes comprise at least 120 credits to be eligible?

A. A minimum of 120 credits gives assurance that the training programme has career benefit to the trainee. It reduces the risk that learners will use up their fees-free entitlement on short training programmes directed by (and often entirely paid for by) their employers, or that employers will shift training costs onto trainees.

Q. Why can’t lower level courses be covered by fees-free?

A. The Fees Free policy focuses eligibility on quality-assured programmes that are considered to be a good investment for New Zealand and for all learners. 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 learners shouldn’t have to use their fees-free entitlement on courses and programmes intended to prepare for tertiary education at level 3 and above.

Q. Why do programmes and courses have to be recognised and funded to be available for fees-free?

A. 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 or programme is both recognised by NZQA or Universities New Zealand, and funded by the TEC it means the course is of a good educational standard.

Q. Are private training establishment (PTE) courses eligible for fees-free?

A. Yes, as long as the learner meets the eligibility criteria (including residency and previous study criteria) and their programme of study meets the eligibility requirements.

Q. Will part-time learners be eligible for fees-free?

A. Learners eligible for fees-free tertiary education can study either part-time or full-time. For example, they could access some fees-free study in 2018 and may be able to carry over some remaining entitlement into future years.

See Carryover settings for 2019 for more information.

Q. Will learners studying from overseas be eligible?

A. Learners can study extramurally in New Zealand or from overseas (as long as they meet the eligibility criteria), or on campus in New Zealand. The course or programme must also meet the eligibility criteria.

People enrolled at a tertiary education organisation not recognised in New Zealand are not eligible for fees-free.

See the eligibility criteria for more information.

Q. Why is industry training covered for two years and only one year for provider-based study?

A. The Government’s intent was to pay fees for the equivalent of a full year of study (120 credits). Most industry training programmes are less than 75 credits per year and it’s difficult for a learner in industry training to undertake the equivalent of a full-time study load in one year. The Government wants to ensure greater equity between industry training and provider-based study.

Q. When will two and three years of fees-free tertiary education become available?

A. The Government has said it is committed to rolling out a full programme of three years of fees-free tertiary education by 2024.

If you need more information about Fees Free, or have questions, please email Sector Helpdesk.

Carryover

Q. What are the rules for carrying forward fees-free entitlements into future years?

A. If a learner is studying at an institute of technology, polytechnic, private training establishment, university or wānanga in 2018, and:

  • they’re eligible for fees-free study, and
  • they’ve undertaken eligible study in the 2018 calendar year

and:

  • they undertook less than 1 EFTS (equivalent to 120 credits), and
  • their course costs did not reach the maximum of $12,000

they may have some fees-free entitlement left over that they can use in the future.

This entitlement will include a dollar and EFTS component.

Q: Can learners choose to pay fees themselves and save their fees-free entitlement to use later?

A. No, learners cannot 'bank' their entitlement for future use. If a learner’s eligibility status is ‘yes’ (they’re eligible for fees-free study) and they’re undertaking eligible study, they automatically use their fees-free entitlement.

However, learners can study part-time and spread their fees-free entitlement over multiple years. See the FAQ: “Will part-time learners be eligible for fees-free?”

Withdrawals

Q. Will a learner still be entitled to fees-free in the future if they withdraw from their course or programme in 2018?

A. Provider-based study

If learners withdraw by their provider’s withdrawal date and are entitled to a full refund, then they are likely to be eligible for fees-free in the future (provided they and their course or programme still meet all the eligibility criteria).

If they withdraw after the withdrawal date, then their ongoing fees-free entitlement will depend on the EFTS and cost of fees of their study they were enrolled in.

A. Industry-based training and apprenticeships

If an industry trainee or apprentice withdraws from their programme, they may still be entitled to fees-free in the future. Any ongoing fees-free entitlement depends on the amount of training they completed before they withdrew.

For more information, see the FAQ “What are the rules around withdrawals and tuition fee refunds if a learner withdraws from their course?”

Q. What are the rules around withdrawals and tuition fee refunds if a learner withdraws from their course?

A. Note the following answer applies to provider-based study only.

Withdrawal and refund conditions remain the same whether a learner is eligible for fees-free and/or accessing fees-free support or not.

If a learner withdraws before your organisation’s withdrawal date:

  • they are entitled to receive a full refund of fees and course costs, and
  • they will retain their full fees-free entitlement (fees-free support is capped at $12,000 per student in 2018 and 2019).

If a learner withdraws after your organisation’s withdrawal date:

  • they are not entitled to receive a full refund of fees and course costs. This may differ if the student is withdrawing due to exceptional circumstances (you will need to apply your organisation’s withdrawal policy in this case), and
  • any EFTS/credits they undertake will be counted as prior study and may affect their future eligibility (see point below) and the amount of fees-free support they can access in the future.
  • To be eligible for fees-free tertiary education, a learner must “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 (NZQF), including tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any other country, but excluding any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a school.”

In both cases, learners who don’t use a full 1 EFTS in 2018 or 2019 can use the balance later. See Carryover Settings for 2019 for more information about carrying over fees-free entitlement.

For more information about withdrawals please refer to the Student Achievement Component (SAC) level 3 and above Conditions.

Residency

Q. What should learners do if they are not sure of their residency status?

A. If a learner needs help with determining their residency status, advise them to 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.

To be eligible for Fees Free, people with a residence class visa must be ordinarily resident and have lived in New Zealand for at least three years, or be a refugee or protected person, or be sponsored into New Zealand by someone in their family who, at the time they were sponsored, was a refugee or protected person.

Q. Why are there residency requirements for learners?

A. The policy aligns fees-free eligibility for provider-based tertiary education with other learner 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.

Residents (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) who haven’t lived in New Zealand for three years or more while holding a residence class visa are not eligible for fees-free tertiary education. They may still receive tuition subsidies as domestic learners.

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

Q. If a learner meets the three years residency criteria partway through the year, what does this mean for their fees-free funding?

A. If a learner attains three years of residency in New Zealand partway through a course or programme, they are not entitled to receive fees-free support for that course or programme. However, they may be entitled to receive fees-free support for any future course(s) or programme they undertake providing they meet the other eligibility criteria.

Q. What should I be advising learners who meet the three year residency criteria partway through the year?

A. You should advise learners that any tertiary study or training undertaken prior to them becoming eligible will count as prior study (for eligibility purposes).

Counting all prior study, if the learner still meets the eligibility criteria, they’ll need to complete and submit a statutory declaration to declare they’re eligible for fees-free.

Q. Does tertiary study or training already undertaken count towards the prior study eligibility criteria?

2018 calendar year

A. Any tertiary education undertaken prior to the learner becoming eligible will count as prior study (for eligibility purposes). Learners must have 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. This excludes any tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in a school.

2019 calendar year

A. Any tertiary education (except that stated below) undertaken prior to the learner becoming eligible will count as prior study (for eligibility purposes). Learners must have 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.

From 1 January 2019, the following credits will not be included in measures of prior tertiary education to determine eligibility for fees-free:

  • 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 student’s or trainee’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.

 For more information on the prior study criteria, see the eligibility criteria.

Scholarships

Q. What should learners do if they have a scholarship for 2018?

A. Scholarship providers are responsible for administering their own scholarships. TEOs can advise students who have been awarded a scholarship for 2018, to contact the awarding body to discuss their situation.

Q. My organisation administers a scholarship for first-year study, what can I do to adapt to the fees-free policy?

A. The Government recognises that your organisation is responsible for administering its own scholarships, and that you have probably already awarded scholarships for 2018.

If you have flexibility to allow students to use their scholarships for living or course-related costs other than fees, or in the second year of study, that will enable 2018 recipients to benefit from both the scholarship and fees-free. We suggest you also consider how you adapt scholarships for 2019 to reflect fees-free.