WELLINGTON, Dec 5 - Confirming the details of Labour's promised fees-free tertiary education policy on Tuesday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said about 80,000 people were expected to be eligible.

Of those, about 50,000 were expected to train at a polytechnic or industry course with the rest at universities.

''If you're a New Zealander who finished school in 2017, or if you will finish school during 2018, you qualify for a year of free provider based tertiary education or industry training in 2018," Mr Hipkins said.

"If you're not a recent school leaver, and you've done less than half a full-time year of educationor training, you also qualify." 

The minister has had to issue assurances in recent weeks to allay concerns the government was running out of time to meet the January 1 deadline.

"I appreciate that enrolled and prospective learners have had to wait some time before seeing the final details of the fees-free policy and I thank them for their patience," he said on Tuesday. 

"However, I'm sure learners will be happy with the result."

The Tertiary Education Commission would implement the policy, he said.

It's set up a site to help prospective students check if they qualify and would be working with tertiary organisations to minimise the extra amount of work they would need to do. 

The government has promised the policy would be rolled out to cover three years of education by 2024.