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Category Human Resources
Type Policy
Approved by Vice Chancellor, November 1999
Date policy took effect 1 November 1999
Last approved revision 28 September 2023
Sponsor Director of Human Resources
Responsible officer Head of Organisational Development
Review date 28 September 2028


To define the circumstances in which staff members enrolling in tertiary study are eligible to apply for Study Assistance.

Study Assistance is a privilege granted at the discretion of the employer in the interests of appropriate training and development of staff for the benefit of the University.

Organisational scope

This policy applies University-wide.


Study Assistance
Support for a staff member enrolling in tertiary study, which could include a financial contribution from the staff member's department towards fees, and leave to attend classes.
Study Assistance Approver
The most appropriate of the following: Pro‑Vice‑Chancellor; Dean in the Division of Health Sciences; Divisional Head; or Chief Operating Officer in Operations Divisions (postgraduate/external study requests only).


1. Overview

  1. Where the conditions of employment specify conditions for the granting of study leave and the payment of fees, these should be adhered to. In all other cases, including grant funded staff, the following policy shall apply:
    1. Members of staff whose employment is half-time or more, and who have a minimum contract of 10 months, may apply for Study Assistance except for staff enrolling in a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes who must be permanent and full-time. Staff who do not have permanent resident status, and enrol in courses for which they are required to pay full cost fees, will not normally be eligible for Study Assistance.
    2. Recommendations for study assistance must be approved by a Study Assistance Approver.
    3. A member of staff whose application for Study Assistance has been declined may request a review of the decision by the Director of Human Resources.
    4. Members of staff will not normally be eligible for study assistance in respect of more than one paper per semester. In the case of study assistance for distance learning, up to four modules/papers may be undertaken per year.
    5. Members of staff who enrol for interest only are not eligible for study assistance, unless they do not have a University degree or equivalent tertiary qualification, and where possible, or practicable, this study will be undertaken at the University of Otago.

2. Fees and Expenses

  1. Fees and Expenses
    1. Where study is a condition of employment, and specified as such in the letter of appointment, full tuition fees and expenses may be granted. Where members of staff have been required to undertake study subsequent to their appointment the application for a 100 per cent grant must be accompanied by a letter from the Study Assistance Approver, which confirms that the applicant is required to undertake study.
    2. Where study is work related but is desirable rather than essential, 70 per cent of the tuition fee and expenses may be granted.
    3. Applications for Study Assistance relating to external tertiary providers will only be considered if the chosen course of study is not available through the University of Otago.
    4. Where an application to study papers for the Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma or Master in Higher Education is approved the grant will automatically be 100 percent and will be fully funded by the department.
    5. Applications for non-work-related study may receive a grant of 25 per cent of the appropriate fee provided that the applicant does not already possess a University degree or an equivalent tertiary qualification and, where possible and practicable, is undertaking this study at the University of Otago.
    6. Staff are automatically exempted from paying the Student Services Fee. This fee must not be included in Study Assistance grants.
  2. Māori Studies and Māori Language papers
    1. Given the University’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Māori Strategic Framework, HODs, Divisional Heads, and Deans are encouraged to support staff who wish to study 100-level papers in Māori Studies, and Māori language papers at all levels.
    2. Where an application to study Māori Language papers is approved, the grant will be 100 percent of the appropriate fee (30 percent of that will be funded by the Office of Māori Development).
    3. Where an application to study 100-level Māori Studies papers other than the language papers is approved, the grant will be 70 percent of the appropriate fee.
    4. Staff who do not normally meet domestic student status requirements, but do hold a permanent academic or professional staff role, are eligible to apply for Study Assistance at the domestic fee rate for Māori Studies papers delivered by the University.
  3. Fees and Expenses Limits
    1. A limit, reviewed annually and found in the administrative procedures on the application form, applies to all study assistance fees and expenses, with the exception of postgraduate courses in Health Sciences. Under exceptional circumstances, the Study Assistance Approver may approve a grant over the limit.
  4. Failure to pass papers
    1. An application for Study Assistance will not normally be approved where an applicant has failed to pass a paper in a previous year.

3. Leave to Attend Classes

  1. Staff who are eligible for Study Assistance under 2(a)(i) may be granted up to two hours' leave per week to attend classes.
  2. Staff who are eligible for Study Assistance under 2(a) or 2(b) may be granted leave to attend classes as follows:
    1. Full-time member of staff: two hours' leave per week.
    2. Less than full-time member of staff: one hours' leave per week.
    3. Where necessary, leave in excess of the above allowances may be granted but the time must be made up.
  3. All staff who are eligible for Study Assistance under either 2(a) or 2(b) will, where practicable, be granted paid leave to attend block courses. Leave to attend block courses must be requested at the time of the application for study assistance.

4. Guidelines for the Interpretation of the Study Assistance Policy

  1. Staff on leave without pay are not normally entitled to study assistance. However, in cases where staff commence leave without pay during a course of study for which they have previously been granted study assistance, the Study Assistance Approver may provide an exemption from this rule.
  2. Where the staff member's contract is due to expire during the proposed course of study, but their Manager/HOD is reasonably confident that a further contract will be offered, they may submit a recommendation for Study Assistance to the Study Assistance Approver.
  3. Any approval for MBA or DBA study (both internal and external) will require an undertaking from the staff member to repay any financial support pro rata should they leave the University's employment within three years of completing each course of study for which fees support has been given.
  4. Grants of 100 per cent for fees and expenses should be rare, and confined only to cases where study has been made a condition of employment in the letter of appointment, or subsequently required by the employer for the benefit of the University, e.g. to assist a department to meet Health and Safety requirements. Academic staff completing a PhD should receive a 100 per cent subsidy only if completion of the PhD was part of the job contract or a confirmation path objective.
  5. When considering whether study is work related or not the value of the degree or qualification as a whole should be considered rather than individual papers. Regardless, the particular papers chosen by the staff member must always meet with the approval of the Study Assistance Approver.
  6. The 25 per cent fee subsidy is intended to encourage staff members who have little or no experience of study at degree level to develop their potential, and their career within the University.
  7. The term “expenses” relates to the cost of attending block courses for staff undertaking external study, e.g., travel expenses. All expenses must adhere to University financial policies. Heads of Department are encouraged to support their staff to attend block courses.
  8. Only in exceptional circumstances should staff be permitted to enrol in more than one paper per semester. Staff who are part time may choose to study more than one paper per semester in their own time, but will not be eligible to receive Study Assistance for the additional papers.
  9. HODs must ensure that staff who are studying have adequate breaks, and that the additional workload imposed by study is manageable and reasonable.
  10. For staff applying for distance study, the normal expectation is that any study undertaken will be completed within four years.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact:

Tel +64 3 479 4101

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