Fees-free for new students

Learn about the government's fees-free policy which applies to students who are new to tertiary education.

The policy covers one year's full-time study (or 120 points, which can take more than a year if you study part-time) and has no age limit.

2020 is the third year of the fees-free policy. If you started in 2019 but haven't enrolled in 120 points yet, your fees-free eligibility will roll over into the new year.

Check your eligibility: If you know your National Student Number (NSN), see if you qualify for fees-free at feesfree.govt.nz.

How far could a year's free university study could take you?

With 120 points of fees-free study you could:

  • Start a Bachelor's degree.
  • See if your significant professional experience can make you eligible for direct admission to a postgraduate diploma or Master's degree.
  • Complete an undergraduate certificate or diploma.

Find out if you are eligible

Official eligibility details: Check your eligibility on the official Fees Free website by using your National Student Number (NSN) or answering a few quick questions.

Citizenship or residency requirements

You meet the residency requirements if you are any one of:

  1. a New Zealand citizen
  2. a New Zealand or Australian resident and you've lived here for at least three years, while holding a residence class visa
  3. a refugee or protected person
  4. a sponsored family member of a refugee or protected person.

No age limit

No-one is too young or too old. You just need to meet our entry requirements.

Previous education (including school)

The fees-free policy is designed for students who are new to tertiary study.

If you are still in school, or started tertiary education while in year 12 or 13

Your fees-free eligibility starts after you leave school.

  • Current secondary school students are not eligible for fees-free.
  • Any tertiary study you do (or did) while still at school - for example, through our Unistart Programme - won't affect your eligibility.
If you have already undertaken tertiary study since leaving school

Any tertiary education you've undertaken in New Zealand or overseas can affect your eligibility. What's important is the amount of study you have enrolled in, regardless of whether you completed your studies or the marks you achieved.*

  • 2018 onwards tertiary education:
    • If you have already enrolled in 120 points of fees-free study, you have reached the end of your entitlement.
    • If you have already enrolled in a year's worth of tertiary study overseas, you won't be eligible for fees-free study.
    • If you have enrolled in fewer than 120 points so far, you may be eligible for some free fees. The Tertiary Education Commission (the people responsible for managing fees-free) will confirm students’ entitlement to rollover fees-free early each year.
  • Tertiary education in 2017 or earlier:
    • If you’ve already undertaken more than 60 points (or 0.5 EFTS) of university or tertiary study before 2018, whether in New Zealand or overseas, you're not eligible.
    • Any study you did while still enrolled at school is not counted.

* If you withdrew from any papers before the “withdrawal with a refund of fees” deadline, coded as “WDFR” on your record, you may still be eligible for additional fees free. You’ll need to check your entitlement with the TEC at the beginning of your trimester of study.

Make sure your course is eligible

Almost all University of Waikato courses are eligible for fees-free

There are a lot of criteria that determine whether various courses or programmes qualify for fees-free. If you study at the University of Waikato, it's quite simple:

  • All of our Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees, and higher degrees are eligible.
  • All certificates and diplomas offered by any School or Faculty except University of Waikato College are eligible.
  • The Certificate of University Preparation (CUP) is the only eligible certificate offered by University of Waikato College.

Courses that are not eligible for fees-free study are:

  • Courses taught by University of Waikato College (except the CUP, which is eligible).
  • Executive short courses offered by Waikato Management School.

Your 120 points of fees-free study can rollover from 2018 to 2019

If you're eligible to roll some of your fees-free study over this year, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will confirm your remaining entitlement at the beginning of each year.

Everyone who started fees-free study in 2018 or later is entitled to either:

  • 120 points of study, or
  • Fees worth $12,000 (incl. GST)

(If you're taking a Bachelor's or Master's degree with us, you will reach the 120 point limit before the $12,000 cap.)

If you haven't reached either of these limits yet, the rest of your entitlement will roll over into 2019. The TEC will confirm your remaining entitlement, both in terms of points (which they call credits), and dollars.

What's covered (and what's not)

The fees-free policy has the same coverage as the 'fees' component of student loans. It covers:

  • Tuition fees (which are charged per paper) and associated mandatory fees, and
  • Compulsory student services fees (for example our Student Services Levy).

There are still some costs you'll have to take care of

University study includes costs that aren't counted as tuition fees, including textbooks, accommodation and other living costs. You'll need to cover these through other means (which could include a student loan and/or allowance).

Student loans and allowances

If you're eligible for fees-free, you don't need to ask StudyLink to pay your fees. The Tertiary Education Commission will pay your fees directly.

You can still borrow course-related costs and living costs through a student loan. Your student allowance eligibility won't change either. If you still want a loan (i.e. for course-related or living costs), make sure that the 'Pay fees' option in your loan application is set to 'No'.

See Studylink's website for more about student loansliving costscourse-related costs and student allowances.

Explore scholarship opportunities


The University is committed to ensuring that our scholarships advantage our students.

Following the introduction of fees-free in 2018, we reviewed our scholarships and made some changes to ensure a better fit alongside the new policy. If you are awarded a scholarship that includes a fees component, the scholarship regulations will tell you how the award money will be allocated, depending on whether or not you’re eligible for fees-free.