Fees-free project wins top public sector award

The programme to deliver fees-free tertiary education, run jointly by the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and Inland Revenue, has won the top award at the Deloitte IPANZ Public Sector Excellence Awards 2018.

The fees-free programme won the Prime Minister’s award for public sector excellence, as well as the category for Excellence in achieving collective impact at the IPANZ awards ceremony in Wellington on Wednesday, 25 July.

The IPANZ citation sums up the 4 agencies’ achievement: “The new Government … pledged to deliver one year of fees-free tertiary education for new students from 1 January 2018. This was a key part of its first 100 days agenda. Building on strong relationships and trust between the 4 agencies, the TEC, Ministry of Education, MSD and Inland Revenue took this complex new policy from concept to detailed design and implementation in just six weeks.”

Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary, Graduate Achievement, Vocations and Careers, Claire Douglas, says the key to the successful delivery of fees-free was inter-agency cooperation and trust – at all levels within the organisations.

“Proof of the effectiveness of this cooperation is that we dealt with every hurdle together. Many of these hurdles were highly technical and involved different systems talking to each other, but it was all done ... on schedule.

“We also need to acknowledge the tertiary sector; we would not have got there without their commitment. People working in tertiary education organisations all over the country burned the midnight oil to make fees-free work as smoothly as possible for their enrolling students.

“The launch of the policy was just the beginning. The TEC and MSD then led the work to communicate the details of fees-free to prospective students, verifying people’s eligibility and arrange payments to tertiary education providers. MSD did this work during its peak season workload handling students’ applications for loans and allowances,” Claire Douglas says.

TEC now runs the system for delivering fees-free tertiary education, including the feesfree.govt.nz website, with MSD integrating advice and support for students into its StudyLink service.

The agencies continue to work on improvements for delivering the fees-free programme, and preparing to deliver the Government’s plan to extend fees-free to up to 3 years in the future.

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