Release of advice relating to changes to the Fees-Free policy in 2019

The Ministry of Education has released advice provided to the Minister of Education to inform decisions taken on the changes to the Fees-Free policy for 2019.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Education asked officials to investigate options to improve the Fees-Free policy for 2019 and to address any unintended consequences.

After talking to tertiary sector experts, student groups and others, the Ministry recommended some minor changes to the Fees-Free policy. These changes were agreed to by Cabinet in August.

From 1 January 2019:

  • Measures of prior study that help to determine fees-free eligibility will change, to ensure learners’ fees-free eligibility is not affected by participating in short industry training programmes. Credits reported as achieved in industry training programmes shorter than 120 credits since 1 January 2018 will not count towards the prior study limit of 60 credits at Level 3 or above;
  • Learners enrolled in secondary school can get fees-free support for tertiary study or training that is not undertaken as part of a schooling programme. This will simplify eligibility rules, allowing "fast-track" confirmation of eligibility for an estimated 6,000 learners; and
  • Other minor operational changes give the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) discretion to reinstate consumed fees-free entitlements in exceptional cases of personal circumstances, and will ensure consistency across the eligibility settings for industry training and provider-based study.

TEC has updated the Fees-Free website, with updated eligibility information following these changes for 2019, and new functionality that makes it easier and quicker for prospective students or trainees to confirm their eligibility for fees-free support.

Fees-Free website(external link)

To ensure information of public interest is made available, the Cabinet paper and Cabinet minute on changes to the Fees-Free policy for 2019 have been released and are available on the links below:

The Ministry of Education has also released its advice to the Minister that helped inform the decisions on the 2019 changes. This includes advice related to monitoring the Fees-Free policy in 2018. The supporting advice is listed below:

DateDocument Type and Title
13 February Briefing Note: Fees-Free Policy – Developing the Work Programme [PDF, 1.1 MB]
23 February Briefing Note: Breakdown of the costings for the $50 increase to student support and Fees-Free tertiary education [PDF, 618 KB]
12 March Briefing Note: Response to media questions on fees-free forecasts and fee payments [PDF, 2.2 MB]
9 May Briefing Note: Work Programme for Fees-Free Tertiary Education [PDF, 1.1 MB]
21 May Education Report: Potential Changes to Fees-Free Policy for 2019 [PDF, 2.7 MB]
23 May Briefing Note: Modelling Fees-Free eligibility – further analysis [PDF, 1.3 MB] 
6 July Education Report: Proposed changes to Fees-Free Policy for 2019 [PDF, 2.7 MB]
16 July Briefing Note: A law change is not required to protect Fees-Free payments to Private Training Establishments [PDF, 1.1 MB]
26 July Briefing Note: Draft Cabinet paper Fees-Free Tertiary Education and Training: improvements for 2019 [PDF, 851 KB]
10 August Briefing Note: Cabinet paper on improvements to Fees-Free Tertiary Education and Training for 2019 [PDF, 1023 KB]
13 September

Letter of delegation to fund Fees-Free tertiary education [PDF, 1 MB] 

10 October

Briefing Note: Commentary on August fees-free enrolment data [PDF, 1.3 MB]

Further information

For further information on the Ministry’s policy advice on the 2019 changes please contact us at

For further information about the Fees-Free policy, or to check your eligibility, visit the Fees-Free website.

Fees-Free website(external link)

The TEC is responsible for implementation of the Fees-Free policy. The proactive release of advice from the TEC to the Minister of Education on the Fees-Free policy is available on the TEC website.

Proactive release on the TEC website of the Fees-Free policy(external link)

Media queries should be directed to

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