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)

Alert System overview

At Alert Level 2:

  • Your provider will remain open, however necessary health control measures must be in place including social distancing and contact tracing
  • While it is not mandatory to wear a face mask or face covering, wearing them is advised where it is not possible to practice social distancing or to carry out contact tracing. This includes, for example, in crowded spaces on campuses, or teaching and learning situations where close physical contact cannot be avoided.

At Alert Level 3:

  • Stay home. Where students can access their courses online, they will continue to do so. For those students where delivery online is not possible some facilities may open (e.g. for research, post-graduate teaching, lab/workshops, or noho-based delivery).
  • Students in hostels, halls of residence or self-contained flats will remain open and Ministry of Health guidelines on hygiene and social distancing will remain.
  • Students are encouraged to wear masks or face coverings when out and about.
  • Student services, such as counselling and health services should continue to operate, with consultations delivered online or over the phone, where possible.

Other supports available are:

  • GP or local community health centre
  • Youthline 0800 376 633
  • Need To Talk by calling or texting 1737
  • In an emergency always call 111

In addition to the above guidelines, another point to note is:

  • Publicly funded COVID-19 related care – including diagnosis, testing and treatment – is provided to anyone who requires it, who has symptoms. This is irrespective of citizenship, visa status, nationality or level of medical insurance coverage. The only time a person should be charged is when they ask for a test in order to enter another country.

Health and wellbeing support for tertiary students

Travel advice across alert levels – NZ Transport(external link)

About free COVID-19 testing – Ministry of Health(external link)

About COVID-19 testing centres – Ministry of Health

Student financial support is available from your provider through the student hardship fund, to support students facing financial hardship. In addition: 

  • Student support package remains available. Claims can be made via your MyStudyLink account. You should receive the payment into your nominated bank account within 24 - 72 hours of the claim being received. 
  • Answers to questions about Student Allowance and Living Cost payments can be found on the StudyLink website(external link).

The number one priority at each Alert Level is the welfare of staff and students, and ensuring that they remain safe and well. The Ministry of Health website contains a useful range of mental health and wellbeing resources:

COVID-19 mental health resources – Ministry of Health(external link)

You are encouraged to keep track of where you have been and who you have had contact with to enable rapid contact tracing in the event you have contact with an active case, for example, by using the COVID Tracer app(external link)

COVID-19 bulletins for tertiary education providers and students(external link)

More tertiary students to get access to free mental health services

The government has announced a $25 million package to expand mental health and wellbeing services for tertiary students.

We recognise that tertiary students are facing challenges with disruption to their original plans, economic impacts and uncertainty about employment opportunities as a result of COVID-19. This package will help meet the immediate and ongoing mental health needs arising from these challenges.

These services will be embedded within tertiary providers, management and peer support and links to social and wellbeing supports.

The roll-out of services will likely give priority to students who currently have limited access or options for mental wellbeing services or where there is indication of higher levels of need.

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.

In the meantime, students can talk to their education provider about the well-being services already available for them.

Face coverings

At Alert Level 2 and above students aged 12 and above are required to wear a face covering when on public transport (this does not include school transport).

There are some general exemptions for users of public transport, including for people where, for medical and health reasons, a face covering would not be appropriate and small passenger vehicles such as taxis and ubers (the drivers are required to wear a mask).

Further exemptions for this requirement are charter buses, group tours, inter-island ferries and private flights.

Read the FAQs on face coverings

Student support

The Student support package will continue(external link)

The government has also established a $20 million hardship fund to support domestic tertiary students, to be paid out through tertiary education organisations.

This fund provides temporary financial assistance for currently enrolled full-time and part time students who are facing hardship from the impacts of COVID-19. Learners will be able to receive money to pay for necessary expenses like food, utilities and rent, or access resources purchased on their behalf.

This fund will be available by the end of May through tertiary education organisations.

Learners should contact their provider to discuss what support they may require and be eligible for.

Industry trainees are not eligible for this specific fund. Support for industry training has been announced through the Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package. Students in Employer-led Workplace Literacy and Numeracy are also excluded.

Hardship support for International tertiary students is being explored separately.

Temporary income relief for eligible domestic students

The government has announced further support for income earners, which may offer you more support, based on your individual circumstances, while you remain studying.

The COVID-19 Income Relief Payment (CIRP) is designed to help people who have lost work between 1 March 2020 and 30 October 2020 due to the economic impact of Covid-19. The CIRP is a non-taxable grant of $250 or $490 per week, depending on the hours of work lost, for a period of up to 12 weeks. It will be available from 8 June.

The CIRP will assist tertiary students who lose paid work of 15 hours or more to financially support themselves while studying. To be eligible, you must have been normally working 15 hours or more a week for 12 weeks or more immediately prior to the loss of work.

People receiving a student allowance can receive the CIRP. However:

  • Those getting a Student Allowance can only receive the part-time rate of $250/week to maintain equity with people in similar financial circumstances.
  • For those getting Student Loan Living Costs, their rate of the income relief payment will depend on the numbers of hours worked.

COVID-19 temporary income relief eligibility criteria [PDF, 596 KB]

COVID-19 temporary income relief detailed fact sheet – link)

Student hardship

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

Stress counselling and support

Emergencies are usually unexpected, sudden and overwhelming. It's natural to feel emotionally and physically drained.

You’re not alone in this and you don’t need to cope on your own. Talk to your friends and family members to help you cope. You can get more help and also information from:

Further support for vulnerable learners

Government has announced a package to support learners and ākonga to have the devices and connectivity they need to continue their tertiary learning programmes.

Under the package, tertiary education providers will lend devices with appropriate operating programmes and provide the connectivity and learning support needed for learners and ākonga to continue learning despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Tertiary education organisations will administer and determine how to prioritise use of the fund. Providers will be funded on the condition that the needs of vulnerable learners are prioritised, and the technological and skills barriers they may face in accessing technology-enabled tertiary education are targeted first.

This will help students, such as those for whom expanding debt is not an option or who study part time and therefore cannot pay for additional course related costs.

Most programmes of study delivered by different types of tertiary education providers are covered. Contact your provider to see if you are eligible.

Support package for tertiary students

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

The Government wants to give certainty to students as soon as possible that they can continue to be engaged in their education and will be supported adequately until such time that tertiary education providers can put in place alternative ways of delivering teaching and learning.

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
  • make 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. 

These measures, together with the support the Ministry of Social Development can already give, provides an immediate response to the financial impact Covid-19 is having on tertiary students.

Further information is available on the StudyLink website(external link)

Why is the extended study break only for eight weeks?

It has been extended from a period of 3 weeks to 8 weeks, because some students’ study has been interrupted while providers reorganise their courses. At this stage, we expect all students to be continuing their studies within 8 weeks. 

Do students have to extend their allowance or loan?

No, StudyLink will advise all affected students about the continuation of their student loan payments and provide students with an option to ‘opt-out’ if they do not wish to continue drawing on their student loans. 

Will these supports apply to students who have withdrawn recently?

We have been advising students to stay enrolled so that they can access assistance packages such as this. If students have already withdrawn before 14th April, this package won’t be available to them. But, for students who were receiving Fees Free this year, their study so far will not affect their eligibility for their Fees Free entitlement in the future. 

What if my parent’s income has reduced because of COVID-19?

StudyLink (MSD) has flexibility to reassess the support available to you based on your parent’s expected income. If your parent’s income has decreased because of COVID-19, then you may be able to access more financial support through StudyLink.

Further financial assistance - StudyLink(external link)

Does this package include support for additional costs for studying remotely?

Officials are still exploring some of the challenges that students are facing accessing study remotely.

However, the additional $1,000 that can be accessed for course related costs can be used to address some of these challenges such as internet and power bills. 

What additional support is available for students’ mental health needs?

Students can access mental health support services through their providers. The way these services are delivered may have changed, for example interviews may now be online or by phone. Students should talk to their providers regarding how to access these services.

There is a range of other support available to New Zealander’s. This includes online resources like the: Low Down, Mental Health Foundation(external link) and Ministry of Health’s website(external link)

Support for international students

International students cannot access direct financial assistance in the same way as domestic 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 are providing support to those in need. To find out what is available in your area, contact Citizen’s Advice Bureau: complete the form at 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 website(external link). 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 this support if they are experiencing temporary hardship due to the effects of COVID-19. More information here(external link)

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 on-going 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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