Zero-fee policy: Making tertiary education and training accessible and affordable for all?



The new Labour led government implemented a zero-fee tertiary policy as part of its first 100-day plan to improve tertiary level participation in New Zealand and to reduce financial barriers. With the first cohort of eligible students enrolling in 2018, the benefits and limitations of this scheme have yet to be determined. This paper discusses the key details and the underpinning rationale of the zero-fee initiative and considers the possible impacts on participation rates, including participation for groups such as those from low socio-economic backgrounds and Māori/Pasifika students. It is argued that the fees-free policy has the potential to enhance tertiary education participation in New Zealand. Yet, as a standalone policy it will not address all the existing barriers, especially for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Finally, key areas for further research are proposed to address gaps in the existing knowledge base and to indicate early trends between the new policy and changes in tertiary level participation.


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Author Biographies

Pii-Tuulia Nikula, Dr, Eastern Institute of Technology

Dr Pii-Tuulia Nikula lectures at the Eastern Institute of Technology. One of Pii-Tuulia’s key research areas focuses on student funding and educational equality within tertiary education and pertinent policy frameworks. In her PhD research at the University of Auckland, Pii-Tuulia examined the historical development of tuition fee and other student funding policies in New Zealand and Finland.

Kay Morris Matthews, Eastern Institute of Technology.

Kay Morris Matthews is Research Professor, Faculty of Education, Humanities and Health Sciences at the Eastern Institute of Technology. Her research in education across 30 years spans educational policy, higher education, history of education and gender education.

How to Cite
NIKULA, Pii-Tuulia; MATTHEWS, Kay Morris. Zero-fee policy: Making tertiary education and training accessible and affordable for all?. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], v. 23, p. 5-19, dec. 2018. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 12 aug. 2020. doi: