New Zealand’s new Labour-led government hopes to begin implementing its free university tuition policy from next year, Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, has announced.
Just one hour after being sworn in as the new leader of the country, Ms Ardern confirmed that Labour was “committed” to its free tertiary education policy and would “work quickly” to try to start rolling it out from 2018.
The policy, which will be phased in over several years, will grant three full years of free post-secondary study to anyone who has not previously enrolled in tertiary education.
Average tuition fees at New Zealand universities are about NZ$6,000 (£3,245) a year, under tiered fee caps that vary across subjects.
According to local news website Stuff, Ms Ardern said on 26 October that prospective students could start planning their free year of study with certainty now.
“We’re committed to that policy, absolutely,” Ms Ardern said. “We knew it would come with some difficulties rolling it out immediately. It’s possible, but we will need to work quickly within the first 100 days.”
She raised the prospect of a “mini-budget” to implement policy priorities within the next few months, according to the website.
“Some of our 100-day commitments we really need to act urgently on if we are to get the legislation through on time.”
During Labour’s election campaign, Ms Ardern said that students starting courses in 2018 would receive one year of fee-free study, gradually extended to three years by 2024.
Labour also promised that living cost assistance would be boosted by NZ$50 a week, taking both the means-tested maintenance grant and universal maintenance loan to about NZ$220 a week. The new plan would add an extra NZ$2 billion to public spending by 2022.
Labour’s pre-election costings put the cost of the free tuition policy at NZ$340 million a year, along with NZ$270 million a year for the boosts to student support.