First year of the Fees Free policy

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

Students have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in loan borrowing as a result of the Coalition Government’s first-year Fees Free policy, final figures show.  

“More than 30,000 fewer students borrowed to pay tertiary fees last year, compared with 2017, saving them $194.2 million,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“That’s a sizeable chunk off the cost New Zealanders face when embarking in in post-school education and training, and it means that once they’ve finished they’re much better placed to get on with life without a huge debt burden weighing them down.” 

In total, over the first year of fees-free tertiary education and training, 47,019 students and trainees received tertiary education that was fees-free, Chris Hipkins said.

Of that total:

  • 36,116 attended tertiary education institutions (universities, institutes  of  technology and polytechnics - ITPs, and wānanga).
  •   6,973 attended private training establishments.
  •   4,845 undertook training through industry training organisations.



(*Note this is a difference of 915 due to some learners enrolling in more than one place)

Fees Free appears to have stabilised a decline of overall student and trainee enrolment numbers over the past four years, the result of a continued strong economy and more people choosing work over study, Chris Hipkins said.

The number of equivalent full time students (EFTS) studying at level 3 or above was 203,510 EFTS in 2018 compared with 204,157 ETFS in 2017.

This compares with a drop of 10,040 EFTS from 214,197 to 204,157 ETFS between 2014 and 2017.

The number of people training as apprentices increased by 4445  (10%) on 2017, to 45,350 , while the number of industry trainees fell by 9.6%, Chris Hipkins said.

“While enrolment numbers appear to have stabilised for the sector as a whole, university enrolments increased by 1212 EFTS, but for ITPs it was a different story with an overall decline of 964 EFTS. 

“We know there are long-term issues with the business models of many ITPs and we also need to increase the number of apprentices and industry trainees to tackle our long term skills shortages in a number of industries.           

“That’s why the reform of vocation education we are working on is so important and why we are reprioritising $197 million from Fees Free to support the process.”  

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