Despite criticism from National that the new fees-free policy was rushed through, not giving institutions enough time to prepare, it seems most institutions are readying themselves for a potential increase in enquiries and enrolments.

Institutions are reportedly receiving an increase in enquiries specifically relating to fees-free study.

AUT University’s website is advertising the policy and has a dedicated page to help prospective students understand how it can apply to them.

Both AUT and Unitec told Stuff that they would not look at bringing on additional staff to cope with the expected influx and were confident there was enough space available across all campuses. Meanwhile University of Auckland said an increase in applications would not affect the number of students they accepted.

Even so, the government has budgeted for a three per cent increase in equivalent full-time students in 2018, equating to about 2000 extra students.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will implement the policy and has set up a website to help prospective students and trainees confirm their eligibility. New Zealand school leavers this year or next are eligible for one year of fees-free education or training, as are New Zealanders who have done less than half a fulltime year of education or training.

Social gerontologist Carole Gordon is pleased to see that the policy is open to New Zealanders of any age. However, the lifelong learning advocate would preferred to have seen the fees-free year applied to their third year of study, thereby encouraging people to specialize in study.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has expressed his intentions to roll the policy out to three years of fees-free study by 2024, at an eventual cost of $1.2 billion per year.


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