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Impact of ‘free fees’ in Aotearoa New Zealand on student wellbeing and success

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 4:30pm – 5:30pm parallel symposium



Room 5 – 301-G050 Lg Chem



Dr Susan Shaw
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Dr Sarah Kate Millar
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Dr Denise Atkins
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Sue Walke
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Kelly Carrington
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Karina Donaldson
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand



The government policy of fees-free access to the first year of  tertiary education was hailed as a watershed for students and an opportunity for providers of higher education.  In an environment in which students and institutions share concerns about resources, it is appropriate to consider radical changes with a particular emphasis on how they impact on the student journey, especially in terms of wellbeing and success. 

Within a large faculty of health, sport and science, we considered a number of questions in relation to offering education to potentially larger groups of next generation students who may not have previously had access to higher education.  This required critiquing pedagogy in relation to the different routes students might take into and beyond our programmes and considering how we might seek to appreciate wellbeing and success during their journey.

We identified indicators of student engagement, success and wellbeing and investigated them for this cohort. We present a profile of the fees-free student group and discuss how these indicators relate to their experience and success while reflecting on key concepts within current educational research. Finally, we ask about the impact of this model of accessing the first year of tertiary education on this cohort.

We have designed this symposium for other curriculum developers and curriculum leaders to engage with the debate on fees-free access.  We will collaboratively and interactively facilitate it based on sharing creative student characters informed by our findings. These student characters will take participants on a journey through their experiences and stimulate thinking. We will explore factors that contributed to their choices to study and the barriers to access they navigated. The narrative will evolve as symposium participants have the opportunity to engage and share their insights. It is our hope that participants will link the findings and relevant literature to their own practice and consider further innovation opportunities in their own work.


Presentation topic


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