What the new Government means for students

There are a raft of changes planned to tertiary education under the Labour-led Government. 

Getting rid of fees will be the biggest change for the sector to adjust to, with the first free year starting in 2018. There won't be three years free until 2024.

Many of these policies are still promises without a start date, but then again, it has only been a month. 

Here's what students can expect under the new Government.

1. No fees for new students in 2018

The Government will fully subsidise the cost of tuition fees during the first year of study for new students, starting in 2018.This will be extended to three years free by 2024.

The policy won't just affect those studying at universities. Apprenticeships, industry training and polytechnics will all be fully subsidised.

There could be several flow-on effects. If there's an increase in students, accommodation could be stretched, and the Government seemed caught on the hop when asked whether Australian citizens qualify for free post-school training too.

2. More access to student allowances - but who knows when

Labour's promised to restore the student allowance for postgraduate students and extend it to those studying for more than seven years, such as medical students.

Frustratingly for anyone making study plans at the moment, just when this would kick in is uncertain.

The Government says it will look at reinstating post-graduate allowances in the 2018 Budget, but there are no guarantees. 

Minister for Education Chris Hipkins said beyond policies that have been announced, he's "not in a position to discuss implementation and start dates for individual policy proposals."

The Budget is typically released at the end of May, so any changes wouldn't come into force until at least the second semester of 2018 - but again, there are no guarantees.

Jacinda Ardern campaigning at Auckland University.
Jacinda Ardern campaigning at Auckland University. Photo credit: Getty

3. A bunch of Aussie students?

Australia and New Zealand currently have an arrangement that means students can study in either country and pay domestic fees.

This led to an obvious question: Will Australians qualify for fees-free study in New Zealand?

The Government says Australians will need to have lived in New Zealand for three years to qualify - the same requirement Australians must meet to be eligible for an interest-free loan or student allowance.

That may prevent see students racing across the ditch to cash in on the policy.

4. More cash week to week

Students on the allowance or weekly living costs loan will have more cash from January 2018 - at least until they need to start paying back that loan.

Labour's confirmed the maximum weekly student allowance and the weekly student loan will both increase by $50, along with an increase in Accommodation Benefit payments of $20 a week.

Sandra Gray of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says the weekly increase will have a big effect. 

"If we can have students working a few less hours, concentrating on their studies more and putting food on the table, that's a really good thing."

5. The return of night classes

Those keen to learn to touch type or speak another language are in luck.

Labour's promised to "reinstate funding" for programmes, including night classes, that help adult learners "adapt" to changing work environments.

National cut funding for Adult Community Education by $13.1 million in the 2009 Budget. People marched in the streets in response.

When Labour talked about reinstating night classes on the campaign trail, it got some of its loudest cheers.

Dr Gray of the TEU told Newshub cuts to adult education were "brutal and very unnecessary and really limited access to education in a way that's detrimental."

The roll out of this policy is still light on the details, with no indication of when funding might be reinstated - or to what level.

6. $20,000 grants for entrepreneurs

This is another policy a bit light on the solids at the moment.

The plan is to offer people who don't take up the three years free post-school education the chance to get a $20,000 grant to help set up a business.

The scheme would roll out for up to 100 entrepreneurs per year for the first three years.

To be eligible, people will have to go through a business training programme - paid for by the policy - and have a mentor and a business plan accepted by a panel of experts.

7. More apprentices

In an attempt to get young people into work (and - Labour will hope - onto a Kiwibuild construction site) a new scheme will offer employers a $9500 subsidy to take on an apprentice.

To get the subsidy, the apprentice must be aged 18 to 24 and have spent more than three months on  a benefit.

Labour says a first-year apprentice will earn $472 a week, rather than $180 a week on the dole.

No word yet on when this scheme comes into force.

8. Fewer international students

Before election, Labour estimated under its immigration policy, the number of student visas will drop by 6000 to 10,000 people a year and the number of post-study work visas will fall by 9000 to 12,000.

National claims Labour's Education Minister Chris Hipkins gave private assurances that he "has no intention of carrying out that commitment any time soon."

The University of Auckland.
The University of Auckland. Photo credit: File

9. More Māori learning

As part of its promise to increase te reo in schools, the Government will need to get more language teachers trained up. There will be dedicated scholarships for te reo Māori teachers to ensure te reo Māori is available as an option in all secondary schools.

Labour's also promised to pilot a traditional Wānanga Māori - a learning institution - that will teach traditional karakia, whakapapa, whaikōrero, history and esoteric knowledge.

11. Free off-peak public transport?

There's a slither of hope for students in the Greens' confidence and supply agreement with Labour.

Labour's promised the Greens it will "investigate a Green Transport Card", "prioritising people in low-income households and people on a benefit."

The Greens' envisioned a Green Card that would allow students and under-19s to travel free off-peak, spreading the load of students to less-busy travel times and making public transport more affordable.

Students aren't directly referenced in the agreement, but they could feasibly be included in the investigation.

Neither the Greens nor Labour responded to a question asking whether students could be included in the investigation.

12. A rebrand for Invercargill

Invercargill is a bit "miffed" about the zero-fees policy. The  South Island town has its own zero-fees policy and has seen student numbers increase from 1000 to 5000. 

Now everyone will get a free-fee tertiary education, Invercargill needs a new approach.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt says they are working on subsidising accommodation, so students who decide to study in the South Island town will get free digs as well as free fees.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt. Photo credit: Getty