Information for the tertiary and international education sector
There are no public health orders currently in place for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Education recommends that tertiary education providers follow public health advice for COVID-19, and support learners and staff to do so as well.
Public health advice is available at: Unite against COVID-19 — covid19.govt.nz
What these changes mean for tertiary education providers
Tertiary education can operate as normal, with no COVID-19 requirements, from 15 August 2023.
Tertiary education providers can set their own policies and procedures to ensure they meet their obligations to staff and learners, including under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and the Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021.
Providers must continue to comply with the requirements in the Code of Practice. This includes:
- supporting all students with information,
- ensuring oversight of students who may be at risk,
- having processes in place to support learners who are unwell (including when their illness affects their ability to study), and
- meeting the requirements for student accommodation.
Employment New Zealand has Guidance for employees, employers, and businesses around COVID-19 and the workplace, including leave and pay entitlements, and modifying employment agreements. WorkSafe also has information to help workplaces manage COVID-19.
Guidance for different learning locations
Where possible, providers are encouraged to make learning options available for those who are unable to attend classes being held onsite.
Teaching and learning spaces
Tertiary education providers can choose to request or impose other public health requirements if a risk assessment determines that it is appropriate to do so (for example: capacity limits in teaching and learning spaces, physical distancing, face masks, and ventilation).
Teaching and learning spaces include (but are not limited to): labs, tutorials, noho marae, research spaces, theatres, libraries, and indoor hubs.
Workplace-based learning, including apprenticeships, practicums, internships, and work placements
Workplace-based learning (including support and assessments) is to be managed based on policies, practices, and public health control requirements applying to that workplace.
Onsite businesses and services
Businesses and services operating on tertiary education sites should follow the latest COVID-19 public health advice and the rules for the relevant sector.
The Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 requires that providers promote awareness of practices that support good physical and mental health for learners in student accommodation. Providers must also be transparent about the house rules that apply in student accommodation and involve residents in reviewing/revising those rules.
Risk assessments for tertiary education
This high-level guidance is intended to assist providers to maintain protocols and policies, in consultation with students, staff, and relevant representative bodies, on how they will operate to manage COVID-19.
Providers are encouraged to update their risk assessments to ensure these continue to align with the latest public health advice and that their protocols and policies are reasonable and proportionate.
Work with staff, students and community
We recommend tertiary education providers regularly review their plans for managing COVID-19, working with their staff, students and communities. Providers should have plans for information-sharing and offer wellbeing and safety supports for staff and students. Providers should inform staff and students of their plans, including any changes to policies and procedures.
Protecting the most vulnerable
You will continue to have people in your community who are vulnerable to becoming very unwell from COVID-19. It may therefore be timely to review your health and safety plans for those more vulnerable individuals in your plans.
Information for people at higher risk, including eligibility for antivirals, is available at Unite against COVID-19 — covid19.govt.nz.
Assessment of premises
We recommend tertiary education providers continue to update their risk assessments of their wider premises (including student accommodation) and update proposals to manage COVID-19 (these include but are not limited to):
- clear rules as to whether students and staff are required to be onsite or whether they should learn or work remotely,
- systems and practices to support staff and learner wellbeing and safety, and
- practices to promote safe and healthy learning and work environments.
Providers may need to update their risk assessments over time to ensure they are aligned with the latest public health advice.
Your obligations to learners and staff
Tertiary education providers should consider their obligations to learners and employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, WorkSafe regulations, Education and Training Act 2020, Human Rights Act 1993, Privacy Act 2020, and the Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021.
We recommend that tertiary education providers encourage students, staff, and visitors onsite to take all sensible precautions to keep themselves safe, including following public health advice.