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Update on the first seven months of the Fees Free policy

Hon Chris Hipkins
Minister of Education

20 November 2018

The Coalition Government’s first-year Fees Free policy is tracking well, with more than 50,000 people set to receive fees-free tertiary education this year, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

“Two thirds of the way through the first year of fees-free tertiary education and training, 41,700 students and trainees are receiving tertiary education that is fees-free,” Chris Hipkins said.

“This is up 25 per cent from the April figures and as expected, the bulk of the increase is in the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) and Industry Training Organisation sector.

“The Ministry of Education forecasts that by the end of the calendar year 50,200 people will benefit from fees-free support - 45,600 provider-based students and 4,600 industry trainees.

“The impact on students’ lives is already clear. Statistics for January to September 2018 show that 31,600 fewer students borrowed to pay tertiary fees. The amount students had to borrow for fees also fell, down $193 million on the same time last year.

“That’s strong progress in the Coalition Government’s determined steps to reduce the cost burden and barriers for New Zealanders in post-school education and training.

“It’s also pleasing to note that the policy may be helping to stabilise the previous significant decline in enrolments, particularly in a strong labour market environment with the lowest unemployment rate in over a decade (3.9%),” Chris Hipkins said.

Enrolments across tertiary providers for level 3 and above courses for the first seven months of 2018 are about the same as the previous year, after a drop of about 5,000 in the year to the end of 2017.

“Given the difficult last couple of years that many of our polytechnics and institutes of technology have experienced, the stabilising of enrolment numbers in that sector is particularly encouraging. This has more than offset the large declines at several institutions, with an overall increase of 678 students on August 2017 figures.

“While significant financial challenges remain for many ITPs, this is good news for the sector as a whole,” Chris Hipkins said.

A more complete picture of the take-up of Fees Free will become available early next year after the next collection of data for the full 2018 year.

Ministerial briefings and other relevant documentation can be found here and here.

Table: Number of fees-free eligible enrolments reported as at August 2018
Number of Students
Universities 23,500
Polytechnics 10,800
Wānanga 100*
Sub-Total 34,400
Private Training Establishments (PTEs) 5,300
Sub-Total 39,700
Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) 2,600
Sub-Total 42,300
Minus 600 multi-enrolments
Total 41,700

* The number of wānanga fees-free enrolments are low due mainly to two reasons. Many of the students that are enrolling at wānanga are older learners whom have a high likelihood of prior tertiary study and therefore are ineligible for fees-free. There are also many programmes offered at the wānanga which were “fees free” prior to the introduction of the fees-free policy. Therefore, students enrolled in these programmes will not be receiving a financial benefit from the fees-free policy.


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