SIT zero-fees scheme to continue next year

The Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill will have its zero-fees scheme for next year.

The scheme looked like it was on the rocks a couple of years ago as changes swept through the vocational education sector.

But the SIT confirmed this week the zero fees scheme would remain. It is one of its main selling points to attract students south.

The SIT established the zero-fees scheme in 2001, to attract non-Southlanders to study at the polytechnic in Invercargill.

The initiative was driven by the Invercargill City Council as a way to attract students to the city due to dwindling student numbers.

A $7.25 million contribution from Southland entities, including local authorities, the ILT and local businesses, brought the scheme to fruition in 2001.

Zero fees, where available, apply only to the base tuition fee attached to each programme of study.

Other costs such as uniforms, textbooks, tools, activities and NZQA charges are not covered by the zero-fees scheme.

Continuing the zero-fees scheme until 2025 took a collaborative effort between SIT and Te Pūkenga but the result was positive, SIT operations lead Darly Haggerty said.

"We are part of Te Pūkenga and work as a team to secure the best possible outcomes for students. Being able to remove barriers and provide opportunities for the community is very pleasing," he said.

"The status of the zero-fees scheme was a key matter of interest for learners, community, industry and stakeholders."

The SIT had 3041 full-time-equivalent students at campuses across the South Island.

Many elements had affected SIT enrolments, particularly "the strength of the labour market".

"There has been a pleasing trend towards increased engagement with on-campus learning and a return of international learners reported nationally," Mr Haggerty said.

The tertiary education provider was in the process of reviewing its course offerings to align with demand and opportunities.

He welcomed the "positive interest" SIT was receiving for its second-semester enrolments, Mr Haggerty said.

In August 2022, the SIT announced that its zero-fees programme policy would be phased out from this year as part of the planned merger of the SIT into the new overarching polytechnic entity in January last year.

The SIT kept its zero-fees programme for the 2023 academic year but previous Te Pūkenga acting chief executive Peter Winder indicated that Te Pūkenga would be adopting a "unified fees approach" soon.

The SIT was unable to guarantee ongoing zero fees.

Zero fees is reviewed annually.

— Nina Tapu