Eligibility criteria and what Fees Free covers

Eligibility criteria and what Fees Free covers

Last updated 10 June 2021
Last updated 10 June 2021

This page sets out the eligibility criteria for Fees Free from 2021. 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).

View the provider-based study eligibility criteria for learners studying at any one of the following:

  • Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology subsidiaries
  • private training establishment
  • university
  • wānanga.

View the industry-based training eligibility criteria for learners doing work-based training or an apprenticeship through a transitional industry training organisation.

Provider-based study

Learner criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free, a learner needs to meet the residency and prior study and training criteria below.

Residency criteria

Learners must be one of the following:

  • New Zealand citizen, or
  • 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
    • a holder of the Christchurch Response (2019) Permanent Resident Visa; or
    • a holder of a residence class visa who would have been eligible for the Christchurch Response (2019) Permanent Resident Visa.

Prior study and training criteria

Learners must have:

  • been enrolled in a school in or after 2019 other than as an adult student, 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 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 and Training Act 2020.

The following does not count as prior study:

  • tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in school prior to 1 January 2019 (except for tertiary education undertaken as an adult student), and
  • tertiary courses undertaken as part of the learner’s school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme on or after 1 January 2019, and
  • credits achieved as part of any industry training programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits that are reported after 1 January 2018
  • tertiary education undertaken as part of the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF)
  • tertiary education undertaken through the Youth Guarantee programme after 1 July 2020
  • tertiary education undertaken through the Maori and Pasifika Trades Training programme after 1 July 2020
  • tertiary education undertaken through the Refugee English Fund.

Course criteria

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

  • funded by the Tertiary Education Commission from either:
    • the Student Achievement Component level 3 and above Government fund, or
    • grants under S556 of the Education and Training Act 2020 for tertiary provision that is part of a qualification or training scheme on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) at level 3 or above, and
  • not part of a school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme.

Visit the Fees Free website to understand how school learning programmes and secondary-tertiary programmes fit within fees-free settings. 

Industry-based training

Learner criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free, a learner must be legally entitled to reside and work in New Zealand and must meet the prior study and training criteria below.

Prior study and training criteria

The learner must also have either:

  • been enrolled in a school in or after 2019, other than as an adult student, 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 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 and Training Act 2020.

The following credits does not count as prior study:

  • tertiary education undertaken while enrolled in school prior to 1 January 2019 (except for tertiary education undertaken as an adult student), and
  • tertiary courses undertaken as part of the learner’s school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme on or after 1 January 2019, and
  • credits achieved as part of any industry training programme that consists of fewer than 120 credits that are reported after 1 January 2018
  • tertiary education undertaken as part of the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF)
  • tertiary education undertaken through the Youth Guarantee programme after 1 July 2020
  • tertiary education undertaken through the Maori and Pasifika Trades Training programme after 1 July 2020
  • tertiary education undertaken through the Refugee English Fund.

Programme criteria

To be eligible for Fees Free, a programme must:

  • be funded through the Industry training fund; and
  • be at New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) level 3 or above, and
  • be approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), and
  • comprise of at least 120 credits (which includes all New Zealand Apprenticeships), and
  • not be part of a school learning programme or secondary-tertiary programme.

Visit the Fees Free website to understand how school learning programmes and secondary-tertiary programmes fit within fees-free settings. 

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 carryover their remaining fees-free entitlement (in dollars and EFTS). You can find out more about this in Carrying over fees-free entitlement.

Fees Free 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.