Advice for tertiary students

Alert Level 1

Now we are at Alert Level 1, the main national control measures are border restrictions and managed isolation or quarantine for people entering the country.  While we are at Alert Level 1, it will be critical that we all remain vigilant.

Alert Level 1 – Unite against COVID-19 website(external link)

All tertiary organisations will resume as normal, including classes, lectures, labs, workshops and tutorials and all students can return to campus.

Under Alert Level 1, the ability to undertake rapid contact tracing will be critical to enable us to quickly get on top of and suppress any future outbreak of COVID-19.

To support this, people are encouraged to keep track of where they have been and who they have had contact with to enable rapid contact tracing in the event they have contact with an active case, for example, by using the COVID Tracer app.

COVID-19 bulletins for tertiary education providers and students(external link)

Information about the four-level alert system(external link)

More tertiary students to get access to free mental health services

The government has announced a $25 million package to expand mental health and wellbeing services for tertiary students.

We recognise that tertiary students are facing challenges with disruption to their original plans, economic impacts and uncertainty about employment opportunities as a result of COVID-19. This package will help meet the immediate and ongoing mental health needs arising from these challenges.

What will this package do?

The Government wants to accelerate the roll-out of mental wellbeing services to tertiary students. These services will be embedded within tertiary providers, management and peer support and links to social and wellbeing supports.

It will also help ensure providers can assist students to manage their mental and physical health, as set out in the Interim Code of Pastoral Care.

How will this initiative be implemented?

The Ministry of Education will work closely with the Ministry of Health to facilitate the accelerated roll out to tertiary providers of youth specific services of the Ministry of Health’s mental health, wellbeing and addiction initiatives.

The roll-out of services will likely give priority to students who currently have limited access or options for mental wellbeing services or where there is indication of higher levels of need.

When will these mental wellbeing services be available?

The expansion of these services will start next year and continue over the following four years and we expect that students will notice an expansion in services and increased choices from 2021.

In the meantime, students can talk to their education provider about the well-being services already available for them.

Who will be able to access these services?

The initiative will focus on supporting tertiary students with mild to moderate levels of distress through primary-level supports, which may include evidence informed therapy and treatment services, peer support, cultural support, self-management support and access to a range of social supports.

The services may be offered face-to-face, by virtual/digital service or a combination of these.

Student support

The Student support package will continue(external link)

The government has also established a $20 million hardship fund to support domestic tertiary students, to be paid out through tertiary education organisations.

This fund provides temporary financial assistance for currently enrolled full-time and part time students who are facing hardship from the impacts of COVID-19. Learners will be able to receive money to pay for necessary expenses like food, utilities and rent, or access resources purchased on their behalf.

This fund will be available by the end of May through tertiary education organisations.

Learners should contact their provider to discuss what support they may require and be eligible for.

Industry trainees are not eligible for this specific fund. Support for industry training has been announced through the Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package. Students in Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy are also excluded.

Hardship support for International tertiary students is being explored separately.

Temporary income relief for eligible domestic students

The government has announced further support for income earners, which may offer you more support, based on your individual circumstances, while you remain studying.

The COVID-19 Income Relief Payment (CIRP) is designed to help people who have lost work between 1 March 2020 and 30 October 2020 due to the economic impact of Covid-19. The CIRP is a non-taxable grant of $250 or $490 per week, depending on the hours of work lost, for a period of up to 12 weeks. It will be available from 8 June.

The CIRP will assist tertiary students who lose paid work of 15 hours or more to financially support themselves while studying. To be eligible, you must have been normally working 15 hours or more a week for 12 weeks or more immediately prior to the loss of work.

People receiving a student allowance can receive the CIRP. However:

  • Those getting a Student Allowance can only receive the part-time rate of $250/week to maintain equity with people in similar financial circumstances.
  • For those getting Student Loan Living Costs, their rate of the income relief payment will depend on the numbers of hours worked.

COVID-19 temporary income relief eligibility criteria [PDF, 596 KB]

COVID-19 temporary income relief detailed fact sheet – link)

Student hardship

  • If you need extra help during this time you can find information about emergency assistance on the StudyLink's Urgent Costs page(external link)
  • If you are an international student, the Government has established a hardship grant fund to address your urgent, temporary needs - for example, a temporary inability to access cash or reduced part-time employment. Assistance available includes direct financial relief or other support, including food parcels and support towards living costs.
  • Read more on NauMai NZ(external link)

Stress counselling and support

Emergencies are usually unexpected, sudden and overwhelming. It's natural to feel emotionally and physically drained.

You’re not alone in this and you don’t need to cope on your own. Talk to your friends and family members to help you cope. You can get more help and also information from:

Further support for vulnerable learners

Government has announced a package to support learners and ākonga to have the devices and connectivity they need to continue their tertiary learning programmes.

Under the package, tertiary education providers will lend devices with appropriate operating programmes and provide the connectivity and learning support needed for learners and ākonga to continue learning despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Tertiary education organisations will administer and determine how to prioritise use of the fund. Providers will be funded on the condition that the needs of vulnerable learners are prioritised, and the technological and skills barriers they may face in accessing technology-enabled tertiary education are targeted first.

This will help students, such as those for whom expanding debt is not an option or who study part time and therefore cannot pay for additional course related costs.

Most programmes of study delivered by different types of tertiary education providers are covered. Contact your provider to see if you are eligible.

How can vulnerable learners access this support?

Learners will need to contact their provider who will manage this fund and prioritise who they will support. They will also make decisions around suitability of device, connectivity and provide support on how to adapt to online learning.

Are part-time learners included in this package?

Yes. Your provider will develop a prioritisation strategy to direct funding to learners who are most in need of additional support, but this does not specifically exclude part-time learners.

Does the package apply to learners at wānanga, transitional industry training organisations (TITO’s) and community providers such as ACE?

Most types of tertiary education organisations, and programme types, are eligible. Contact your provider to see if they are eligible.

Our family has a digital device but the children are using it for school. Can I get another device for my tertiary study?

Your provider will make the decision about which learners are most in need of support.

How soon can I get the help I need to be able to study online?

This will depend on your provider, but many have already established initiatives to support online study. Check with your provider to find out what assistance is available.

Are international students eligible?

No. International students are not eligible unless your provider is eligible to receive funding from one of the funding sources for that learner’s enrolment.

Will I be able to keep the device?

No. Your provider owns the device. Once you have completed/finished your studies, the device should be returned to the provider so it can be re-distributed.

Support package for tertiary students

The Government has provided a support package to financially assist domestic tertiary students whose study has been affected by Covid-19.

The Government wants to give certainty to students as soon as possible that they can continue to be engaged in their education and will be supported adequately until such time that tertiary education providers can put in place alternative ways of delivering teaching and learning.

Key measures include:

  • temporarily increasing student loan course-related costs from $1,000 to $2,000 (as a once only payment). These course-related costs must be spent on things to support your learning at home like internet costs and increased power bills.
  • continue support payments for students unable to study on-line for up to 8 weeks
  • make technical changes to ensure that:
    • where students receive partial tuition fee refunds in 2020 because their course has been discontinued due to Covid-19, this will not affect their future entitlement to student loans
    • where students are unable to complete a course of study in 2020 due to Covid-19, this will not affect their entitlement to Fees Free tertiary study. 

These measures, together with the support the Ministry of Social Development can already give,  provides an immediate response to the financial impact Covid-19 is having on tertiary students.

Who does this package apply to?

It applies to all fulltime domestic students studying at university, private training establishments, institutes of technology, polytechnics (ITPs) and Wānanga this year whether they are enrolled already or planning to enrol.

What do students have to do to apply for support?

Students can now apply through their MyStudyLink account. Students should receive the payment into their nominated bank account within 24 - 72 hours of the claim being received.

Further information is available on the StudyLink website(external link)

Why is the extended study break only for eight weeks?

It has been extended from a period of 3 weeks to 8 weeks, because some students’ study has been interrupted while providers reorganise their courses. At this stage, we expect all students to be continuing their studies within 8 weeks. 

Do students have to extend their allowance or loan?

No, StudyLink will advise all affected students about the continuation of their student loan payments and provide students with an option to ‘opt-out’ if they do not wish to continue drawing on their student loans. 

Will these supports apply to students who have withdrawn recently?

We have been advising students to stay enrolled so that they can access assistance packages such as this. If students have already withdrawn before 14th April, this package won’t be available to them. But, for students who were receiving Fees Free this year, their study so far will not affect their eligibility for their Fees Free entitlement in the future. 

What if my parent’s income has reduced because of COVID-19?

StudyLink (MSD) has flexibility to reassess the support available to you based on your parent’s expected income. If your parent’s income has decreased because of COVID-19, then you may be able to access more financial support through StudyLink.

Further financial assistance - StudyLink(external link)

Does this package include support for additional costs for studying remotely?

Officials are still exploring some of the challenges that students are facing accessing study remotely.

However, the additional $1,000 that can be accessed for course related costs can be used to address some of these challenges such as internet and power bills. 

What additional support is available for students’ mental health needs?

Students can access mental health support services through their providers. The way these services are delivered may have changed, for example interviews may now be online or by phone. Students should talk to their providers regarding how to access these services.

There is a range of other support available to New Zealander’s. This includes online resources like the: Low Down, Mental Health Foundation(external link) and Ministry of Health’s website(external link)

Why are these changes needed?

These changes are to ensure income continuity and adequacy for tertiary domestic students during the Covid-19 outbreak. Many students’ incomes have been impacted because they have not been able to continue part-time work. Others have had to move from cities during the lockdown. Some are facing additional costs to connect to the digital technologies they need to continue studying their programmes in different ways. 

Does this package apply to international students?

International students cannot access direct financial assistance in the same way as domestic students. In usual circumstances, international students are required to have supports in place during their study. However we want to make sure that you have access to the essential services that can provide for your basic needs. If you are in urgent need of essentials like food, medicine or cleaning products, here are some places that can help:

  • Your place of study. Under the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016, your place of study has an important responsibility for your health and wellbeing. Contact the international office (or your usual contact) in the first instance to see if they can help you.
  • Embassies. You can contact your home country’s embassy in New Zealand. Find the list of embassies in New Zealand on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website(external link)
  • Local groups. Community, faith-based and cultural groups are providing support to those in need. To find out what is available in your area, contact Citizen’s Advice Bureau: complete the form at link) or phone 0800 367 222.
  • Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups. This service is intended for people who don’t have any other options available to them. It operates seven days a week from 7am to 7pm. You can find your local group on the CDEM website(external link). You can also ask to speak with a translator if you need help.
  • Foodbanks. If you are in urgent need of food or other essentials, you can get a free food parcel from a foodbank in your region on the New Zealand Foodbanks website.(external link) We suggest you have your student ID with you when you call.
  • Any foreign national in New Zealand – including international students – may apply for this support if they are experiencing temporary hardship due to the effects of COVID-19. More information here(external link)

How soon can students expect to see the course-related costs in their bank accounts?

Government is moving quickly on this and wants this processed promptly. Information about how to access the supports announced today, and when the payment will be processed, will be available from Studylink(external link), or talk to your provider.

Will I receive a refund for my stay at the halls of residence?

Students in halls of residence have signed contracts with their provider. As these contracts differ between providers, it’s best to check your contract and then talk to your provider about what arrangements might be available to help you.

Will there be any extra support for students who have lost their part-time jobs?

This package is designed to keep you in study now. Further work is continuing to find out what options may help priority groups of learners but this is in its early stages.

Is the government planning on releasing any information outlining employment rights’ information for tertiary students?

Government is working to make sure that any entitlements and allowances – for study, for hardship, for employment – are transparent and readily available. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is updating information on what support is available for employees and this is likely to cover information relevant to students who are studying part-time.

Extending the Interim Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of Domestic Students

The Minister of Education is proposing extending the Interim Code of Practice (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students) by one year, to January 2022. In the interim, tertiary providers would continue implementing the Interim Code which aims to improve the wellbeing of students.

This extension would be done by making changes to the Education and Training Bill to allow for full consultation on a long-term Code of Pastoral Care, including a dispute resolution scheme.

If this becomes law, the current Interim Code could remain in place for another year. In the meantime, a new provision will allow the Minister to make minor and technical changes where needed.

The extension is because tertiary education providers, learners and those who work in the sector have had to focus their immediate energy into responding to COVID-19.


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