Guidance

Guidance

Last updated 20 November 2019
Last updated 20 November 2019

This page includes Fees Free 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 for Fees Free?

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 New Zealand Qualifications Framework 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 the New Zealand Qualifications Authority 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 course meets the course eligibility criteria.

Q. Are learners studying part time eligible for Fees Free?

A. Learners eligible for Fees Free can study either part time or full time. For example, they could access some fees-free study in 2019 and may be able to carry over some remaining entitlement into future years.

See Carrying over fees-free entitlement 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.

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.

Carryover

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 is eligible for Fees Free 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. What happens to a learner’s fees-free entitlement when they withdraw from a course or programme?

A. Provider-based study

This depends on when the learner withdraws.

If a learner withdraws from a course with no costs or EFTS incurred, the course will not be counted for fees-free entitlement purposes.

If a learner withdraws from a course after the withdrawal date (and incurs EFTS and costs as a result), then their ongoing fees-free entitlement will depend on the EFTS and cost of fees of their study they were enrolled in.

A. Industry training

If an industry trainee 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 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 is capped at $12,000).

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 and the amount of fees-free entitlement they can access in the future.

In both cases, learners who don’t use a full 1 EFTS in their first calendar year of study can use the balance later. See Carrying over fees-free entitlement for more information.

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 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.

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 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. 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 entitlement for that course or programme. However, they may be entitled to receive fees-free entitlement 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. What counts as “prior study”?

A. All tertiary education at New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) level 3 or above. This includes tertiary education at an equivalent level undertaken in any country.

The following credits are not included in measures of prior tertiary education:

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

Scholarships

Q. My organisation administers a scholarship for first-year study. What can I do to adapt to the Fees Free policy?

A. If you have flexibility to allow learners to use their scholarships for living or course-related costs other than fees, or in the second year of study, that will enable Fees Free eligible recipients to benefit from both the scholarship and Fees Free.