Pastoral Care for domestic tertiary students Q&A

Find further information about the Government’s Code of Practice.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Tertiary Education Organisations
  • Domestic Students

An interim Code of Practice is currently in place while a more comprehensive and permanent code takes effect in 2022. All tertiary education providers are expected to comply with the Code and will be accountable for discharging their responsibilities under the Code.

What does the Code mean? Who will be held accountable?

The Code means there will be a consistent approach to the welfare, safety and wellbeing and pastoral care of domestic tertiary students.

An interim Code will be in place for 2020 setting out a general duty of pastoral care that tertiary education providers have for domestic tertiary students, and specific requirements for providers that offer student accommodation

In relation to student accommodation, tertiary education providers are required to support the safety and wellbeing of students and improve the consistency of standards in student accommodation.

The general duty of pastoral care under the Code sets out requirements for providers to assist students to experience a safe, inclusive learning environment and to access the advice and assistance they need to maintain their own wellbeing.

All tertiary education providers are expected to comply with the Code and will be accountable for discharging their responsibilities under the Code.

Why do we need this Code?

There are a number of drivers behind the need for the Code of Practice.

The tragedy at Sonoda Village student accommodation in Christchurch exposed the limits of the old system of self-regulation for pastoral care of students. It was based on a voluntary code and failed to maintain adequate standards at tertiary providers around the country.

The Government has moved quickly to change the Education Act so there would be better protections in place for students from next year.

The community has also made it clear through the nationwide Education Conversation, Kōrero Mātauranga, that it wants greater alignment between learning and wellbeing. New Zealanders want education to be about more than just learning things. The Code shows we are listening.

We have a mandatory Code of Practice for supporting the pastoral care of international students, but for domestic tertiary students we have had only a voluntary code in place which has been applied inconsistently around the country. Providers and domestic students alike have a right to be given greater clarity around their respective responsibilities and entitlements.

Was the Code consulted on?

An interim Code of Practice will apply from 1 January 2020. Officials have tested the content of this Code with experts from the tertiary sector, and with learners.

Providers realise there is variation in how students are supported currently and that since we have a mandatory Code for international students, but not for domestic learners, there is a gap in the system.

During 2020 the Government will consult on the development of a more comprehensive and permanent Code which will take effect from 2021. The Government will engage with learners, families and sector groups as part of this consultation.

Will there be an extra cost to providers as a result of the new Code?

Where providers are already providing high quality and robust pastoral care with strong systems and processes, it is expected that any cost will be low. However there may be some cost involved for those providers that need to improve their systems and processes to comply with the Code.

We expect providers to exercise restraint in passing on any costs from complying with either the interim Code or the ongoing Code that will apply from 2021. Providers can charge student services fees for particular services, such as counselling, but these are set in consultation with students, and may be regulated if increases are unreasonable. Increases in tuition fees are also regulated.

Is this just for University halls?

No. Wellbeing and pastoral care is important for all domestic tertiary students, wherever they study. The Code includes general pastoral care requirements which will apply regardless of where students live. Polytechnics, wānanga and private education providers, including those who own or arrange student accommodation services, will need to comply with the Code.

How can complaints be made about pastoral care or accommodation now the Code is in place?

Students should, in the first instance, raise concerns directly with the tertiary organisation where they are studying.

For further information, see the website of the Code Administrator, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority(external link)

(external link)We will be publicising the Code and how to get advice about how it works extensively within the tertiary sector. We will make it clear how parents, whānau, students and rangatahi can raise concerns about how a provider is meeting the code.

One of the things we will be working on for 2021 is setting up a process for resolving disputes between students and rangatahi, or their parents and whānau, and tertiary education and/or accommodation providers.

Complaints can also be made to the TEC by calling the complaints helpline on 0800 601 302 or emailing at

More information about the TEC’s complaints process can be found on the TEC website(external link)

What protections are in place for international students?

For international students there’s already a high level of pastoral care and support required as set out in the Code of Practice for pastoral care of international students.

Read the Code of Practice for pastoral care of international students on the NZQA site(external link)

The development of the ongoing Code will also provide an opportunity to address any gaps in the current Code for international students.

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