Fees-free information for TEOs

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Last updated 13 July 2020
Last updated 13 July 2020

In 2018 the Government introduced Fees Free Tertiary Education. The TEC leads the implementation of the Fees Free Tertiary Education and Training (Fees Free) policy.

All about Fees Free

Eligibility criteria and what Fees Free covers – the Fees Free eligibility criteria, how to check learners’ eligibility and which fees are covered by the policy

Advising learners – what to tell learners about eligibility and Student Loans

Learner marketing material – material for tertiary education organisations, targeted at learners starting study or training in 2020

Carrying forward fees-free entitlement – how the carrying forward of Fees Free entitlements works

Payments and reporting – all about payments and tips on Fees Free reporting

Guidance – FAQs, information guides and other resources to help you understand Fees Free

Who to contact

The Customer Contact Group is available to answer Fees Free queries. You can also contact your relationship manager or advisor.

Please direct learners to the feesfree.govt.nz website for information. They can also call 0800 687 775 for help.

Reinstating Fees Free entitlement for eligible learners affected by COVID-19

Many learners have been adversely affected by COVID-19 either by not being able to participate fully in their studies or training, or due to illness or financial hardship.  This has resulted in some learners withdrawing from their study or training or not completing courses.

Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) should inform Fees Free eligible learners who used their entitlement for study or training in 2020 that there is a process to reinstate Fees Free entitlements in certain circumstances.

Some or all of learners’ Fees Free entitlement may be reinstated if they are an eligible learner and:

  • they withdrew from study or training due to the impact of COVID-19; or
  • their study or training was adversely affected due to the impact of COVID-19

We (the TEC) will reinstate the entitlements of learners who withdrew from 23 March to 30 June 2020, without learners needing to appeal. Learners’ entitlements will be reinstated in the next few months.

For withdrawals outside of the period from 23 March to 30 June 2020, or where learners didn’t withdraw, but their studies were adversely affected, learners can appeal their entitlement use. The Fees Free website is currently being updated and the changes will be live in August 2020. From then on, learners will be able to appeal by entering their NSN on the homepage and completing the entitlement appeals form on the results page.

If a learner needs to appeal before August 2020 (e.g. they have used their Fees Free entitlement and wish to enrol in a new course), they can contact us on 0800 601 301 or email customerservice@tec.govt.nz.

To support this process and your learners, we ask that TEOs continue to report all Fees Free eligible learners via the ‘Fees Free All Enrolments and Costs return’, including those who have been affected by COVID-19. Furthermore, we request that Transitional ITOs report all trainees status’ accurately as either active, grace, on hold or withdrawn.



If a learner withdraws outside of the normal withdrawal period due to COVID-19 (either within or outside of the 23 March – 30 June COVID-19 withdrawal period), will the tertiary education organisation (TEO) have to refund the learner or return the money to TEC?

For 2020, there are no recoveries from TEOs to TEC for Fees Free. Therefore, where a learner withdraws due to COVID-19, the TEO will retain the funding.  The same applies to transitional ITOs, they will retain funding already paid to them.

If a learner appeals their entitlement being used on impacted study or training, will the TEO have to refund the learner or return the money to TEC?

As previously mentioned, for 2020, there are no recoveries from TEOs to TEC for Fees Free.  Therefore, where a learners’ Fees Free entitlement is reinstated due to COVID-19, the TEO will retain the funding. 

Transitional ITOs

We have trainees who could not complete their block course during lockdown and this now falls outside the 24 month Fees Free timeframe.

You can apply to the TEC to have the cost of the block course paid under Fees Free, if the block course was moved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdown.

You will need to provide sufficient information and evidence to prove that the course was originally scheduled to be held during lockdown.


I withdrew from my study because of COVID-19. How can I get my Fees Free entitlement reinstated?

If you withdrew between 23 March and 30 June 2020 you do not need to do anything because your Fees Free entitlement will be proactively reinstated. However, if you withdrew outside of this timeframe you will need to appeal against the use of your Fees Free entitlement and provide evidence to the TEC as to how the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdown affected your ability to complete your course.

My study was impacted due to COVID-19, how do I appeal my entitlement use?

From August 2020, you can appeal by visiting the Fees Free website. Enter your NSN on the home page and follow the directions to appeal the use of your Fees Free entitlement. You will be able to provide an explanation and evidence to demonstrate the impact COVID-19 has had on your study or training.

If you need to appeal before August 2020 (e.g. you have used your Fees Free entitlement and wish to enrol in a new course), please contact us on 0800 601 301 or email customerservice@tec.govt.nz.

Will I be notified when my entitlement is reinstated?

Your TEO will be notified through normal reporting.  If you are unsure whether your entitlement has been reinstated, please contact your TEO in the first instance. If you are not currently enrolled with a TEO, please e-mail us at feesfree@tec.govt.nz to find out how much of your fees-free entitlement (dollars) you’ve used to date.

I’ve used my Fees Free entitlement already but this was for study in an industry that has been impacted by COVID-19. Can my Fees Free entitlement be reset or can I access Fees Free to study something else?

Unfortunately we cannot reinstate Fees Free entitlements for study completed prior to 2020. However, there is funding available to complete fees free trades training in specific vocational areas. See information on our website about the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund.