Advice for tertiary students

Alert Levels

The official Unite against COVID-19 website has up-to-date information on the current Alert Levels across New Zealand.

Current alert level – Unite against COVID-19(external link)

Steps we can all take to slow the spread of the virus:

  • stay home if you’re sick
  • keep track of where you’ve been
  • wear a face-covering on public transport
  • continue to practice good hygiene such as washing your hands regularly and coughing/sneezing into your elbow.

The Unite against COVID-19 website(external link) provides more information about how you can protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

The number one priority at each Alert Level is the welfare of staff and students and ensuring that they remain safe and well.

Guidelines for Tertiary Education providers: how to operate under different Alert Levels [PDF, 268 KB]

Guidance for how the different alert levels apply to different transport options and services(external link)

COVID-19 bulletins for tertiary students and education providers

The bulletin is our central channel for communicating key COVID-19 information to tertiary education providers and students.

All COVID-19 bulletins for tertiary students and education providers can be found here.

Health and wellbeing support for tertiary students

The number one priority remains the welfare of staff and students and ensuring that they remain safe and well during this time. To assist you with that, we have compiled a range of health and wellbeing support in one place. This includes support to access essential supplies and other financial assistance, mental health services and wellbeing resources. This can be found here: Health and welbeing support for students

Assistance is also available from:

Student hardship

If you need extra help during this time you can find information about emergency assistance on the StudyLink's Urgent Costs(external link) page.

If you are an international student, the Government has established a hardship grant fund to address your urgent, temporary needs – for example, a temporary inability to access cash or reduced part-time employment. Assistance available includes direct financial relief or other support, including food parcels and support towards living costs. Read more on NauMai NZ(external link).

Financial support for tertiary students

The Government has provided a support package to financially assist domestic tertiary students whose study has been affected by COVID-19.

Key measures include:

  • Temporarily increasing student loan course-related costs from $1,000 to $2,000 (as a once-only payment). These course-related costs must be spent on things to support your learning at home like internet costs and increased power bills.
  • Continue support payments for students unable to study online for up to 8 weeks.
  • Made technical changes to ensure that:
    • where students receive partial tuition fee refunds in 2020, because their course has been discontinued due to Covid-19, this will not affect their future entitlement to student loans
    • where students are unable to complete a course of study in 2020 due to Covid-19, this will not affect their entitlement to Fees Free tertiary study.

Further information about the Emergency Benefit and international students is available on the StudyLink website(external link)

Read more: Emergency Benefit and international students

Support for international students

In usual circumstances, international students are required to have supports in place during their study. However, we want to make sure that you have access to the essential services that can provide for your basic needs.

If you are in urgent need of essentials like food, medicine or cleaning products, here are some places that can help:

  • Your place of study. Under the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016, your place of study has an important responsibility for your health and wellbeing. Contact the international office (or your usual contact) in the first instance to see if they can help you.
  • Embassies. You can contact your home country’s embassy in New Zealand. Find the list of embassies in New Zealand on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website(external link)
  • Local groups, community, faith-based and cultural groups provide support to those in need. To find out what is available in your area, contact Citizen’s Advice Bureau: complete the online form(external link) or phone 0800 367 222.
  • Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups. This service is intended for people who don’t have any other options available to them. It operates seven days a week from 7am to 7pm. You can find your local group on the CDEM(external link) website. You can also ask to speak with a translator if you need help.
  • Foodbanks. If you are in urgent need of food or other essentials, you can get a free food parcel from a foodbank in your region on the New Zealand Foodbanks website(external link). We suggest you have your student ID with you when you call.
  • Any foreign national in New Zealand – including international students – may apply for support if they are experiencing temporary hardship due to the effects of COVID-19. More information here(external link)

NauMai NZ(external link) also has information for international students to help you understand what is happening in New Zealand in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.


Border exception for returning international tertiary students

On 14 January 2021, the Government approved an exception class for 1,000 bachelor’s degree level and above tertiary international students to return to New Zealand and continue their studies. These students need to hold or have held a valid visa to study in 2020 and have studied in New Zealand in 2019 towards their current qualification and be returning to study with their current provider.

Read the details of the announcement

Emergency benefit and international students

From 1 December 2020, people on temporary work, student or visitor visas who can’t return home and can’t support themselves may get an Emergency Benefit from the Ministry of Social Development

Find out more about the Emergency Benefit – Work and Income(external link)

Read our article about Emergency benefit and international students

Border exception: Student eligibility and identification process

On 12 October 2020, the Government announced a new border exception category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand.

Full details of the announcement can be found here.

Under the new border exception category, the first priority group to be considered are PhD students who

  • hold or have held a valid visa to study in New Zealand in 2020,
  • were enrolled in a PhD or other postgraduate qualification prior to border closure (19 March 2020), and
  • are studying towards a qualification that involves practical components that cannot be progressed or completed offshore.

Providers are responsible for identifying and nominating students, and we anticipate that the PhD group will make up a good proportion, if not all, of the 250 available places.

Following that process, and only if there are any remaining spaces available from the total of 250, level 9 Masters students will be considered. As with the PhD group, students will need to hold or have held a valid visa to study in New Zealand in 2020, been enrolled prior to border closure (19 March 2020) and be studying towards qualifications that involve practical components that cannot be progressed or completed offshore. As with the first group, providers will select and put forward their students who meet these criteria.

Students who would like to be considered for this border exception should contact their providers in the first instance.

More tertiary students to get access to free mental health services

On 11 July 2020, the Government announced a $25 million package to expand mental health and wellbeing services for tertiary students.

The expansion of these services will start next year and continue over the following four years and we expect that students will notice an expansion in services and increased choices from 2021.

The Ministerial press release can be found here(external link) and further details can be found here [PDF, 434 KB]

Extending Interim Code of Practice for Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students until 1 January 2022

The Government will allow more time to develop the on-going Code of Pastoral Care and accompanying dispute resolution scheme for domestic tertiary students.

Plans for wide engagement and consultation on the development of an ongoing Code of Pastoral Care and dispute resolution scheme are being drawn up now. Tertiary education organisations, students, sector peak bodies and networks, and others with a stake in this process will be advised how and when they can participate.


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