Victoria University of Wellington is offering free study for new students affected by Covid-19, after its surplus expectations were waived.

Scholarships covering 100 per cent of tuition fees are being offered for the beginning of this year's second trimester, which starts on Monday July 6.

Vice-chancellor professor Grant Guilford said the scholarships were for people whose work and life had been disrupted by the pandemic.

"We are wishing to support people who have lost their job, been forced home from overseas or find themselves in changed circumstances, such as needing to care for dependents at home.


"At times of crisis, universities have an important role to play as inclusive institutions where learning flourishes and new beginnings are possible.

"This offer is one of the things we can do to support our communities and get behind the people of Wellington and New Zealand in a time of need," he said.

The offer is open to domestic students of any age who met the university's academic entry requirements.

The offer is not available to current students who are affected by Covid-19, but the university said they could apply for hardship support.

Last week The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) wrote to institutions advising them they were not required to achieve a 3 per cent surplus considering the impact of Covid-19.

"Further, TEC expects institutions to use the full range of financial options available to them in responding to the Covid-19 travel ban, including utilising surpluses built up in relatively normal years," Tertiary Education Union National President Michael Gilchrist said at the time.

Guilford said the move provided Victoria University with up to $15m of breathing space.

Although a significant chunk would be used to soak up the university's revenue loss, there was also money to invest in the community, Guilford said.


"This scholarship is the best way for us to do that, to be able to support people's education so that they can pick up and move on from this crisis", he said.

There was no limit on how many scholarships would be issued, Guilford said.

"We've got a strong balance street and if we have to take a loss this year, in terms of supporting a large number of students starting their studies, then we'll do that."

Earlier today the University of Auckland announced it would suspend teaching across its campuses next week because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Guilford said Victoria University was largely operating as business as usual with students already being able to choose between watching lectures online or attending them on campus.

In a situation where students could not physically attend campus, lectures would continue to be posted online and tutorials could be held via Zoom.


What was not as simple was closing the university in its entirety, Guilford said.

"We need people here to continue research programmes, to support basic services that allow online learning to be delivered, and fundamental operations like payroll."

Guilford said the university would continue following Ministry of Health advice.