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Free university only for Kiwis, not Australians

Happy. Not so happy. Source: Reuters/David Gray

New Zealand’s Labour-led government will start rolling out free university from next year onwards, starting with a free first year for students from 2018. They aim to provide three years fee-free from 2024.

Unfortunately for Australians, this amazing move will only apply for Kiwis.

Currently, Australian students pay the same fees as Kiwis do at New Zealand universities but that’s set to change under the reign of newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Australians will only be able to get free study and training in New Zealand if they’ve been living in the country for at least three years, New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed yesterday, according to Vice.

“Any Australians wanting to take up fees-free tertiary study will need to meet the three-year residence requirement that currently applies to accessing interest-free student loans and student allowances. This will also apply to other residents from different countries,” Hipkins told local media.

“Australians who have been ordinarily resident in New Zealand for less than three years will continue to pay domestic fees.”

The current scheme for Australians to access student loans or support payments in New Zealand also depends on proof that they’ve been long-term residents of three years or more.

Ardern has made it clear to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney earlier this month that Australians would have to have lived in New Zealand for some time before qualifying for free university there.

She also reiterated fees for Australian students may be hiked, too, if Kiwis are charged international fees in Australia, thanks to an Australian government’s proposal to consider Kiwis as full-fee paying students. Thankfully, it’s now stalled in the Senate and unlikely to see the light of day in the foreseeable future, according to NZ Herald.

Crossing the Tasman

Free university is an alluring thought, but would it be enough to make people cross the Tasman? Hipkins doesn’t think so.

“It may prove an added attraction to Australians already considering moving to New Zealand, but by itself it is hard to imagine it would motivate Australians to shift here for the three years needed to access fees-free study,” the minister said, as quoted by NZ Herald.

“I am taking advice on the likely impact on student numbers but over-all I expect it will increase participation over time – even if some students consider delaying their study while the fees-free policy is phased in.”

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