Mixed response to Labour's free tertiary education policy

Opinion is split over Labour's policy to offer three years free training or tertiary education.

Labour says a job for life is a thing of the past and it's offering three years free training or university education to gain new skills.

ONE News Political reporter Andrea Vance has been testing reaction. Source: 1 NEWS

"The world of work is changing, more people are going to be displaced more rapidly," party leader Andrew Little says.

Critics say taxpayers should not have to shoulder the billion dollar cost and university graduates generally go on to jobs that pay 50 per cent more than the medium wage for the whole of their working life.

But the student loan debt has climbed by $5 billion to $15b since National took office and the average student debt is now $20,000 with the average payback time nine years.

Labour expects the policy will increase student numbers by about 15 per cent and universities are worried they won't be able to cope with an influx of more students.

"The pros...more people will be able to get to university who weren't able to in the past," Universities NZ executive director Chris Whelan says.

"The cons are without additional funding for the institutions themselves the quality of the degrees they are going to be able to get will decline."

The policy would be phased in from 2019 with full implementation in 2025 and Mr Little says Labour is working on policy that will ensure those that take up the free education will remain in New Zealand.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said students will still need loans because the policy covers course costs only, not living expenses.