International students are eager to return to New Zealand soon. Still, since the country’s border closed in March, only one cohort of international students, including doctoral and master’s students, has been approved to return. On Aug. 10, 2020, the country temporarily suspended requests for temporary visas from outside New Zealand. Most international students are not expected to return to New Zealand any time soon. Still, the possibility of letting 500 international students into the borders of New Zealand every month from January has been floated by Education NZ, reported NZherald.
The state agency, which promotes New Zealand to international students, said that when the first semester begins next year, there will still be 25,000 to 30,000 foreign students in the nation based on current numbers “and assuming that 500 students arrive in New Zealand every month from January 2021.”A post-election briefing by the Ministry of Education advised Education Minister Chris Hipkins that during November, officials would discuss “decisions on the next proposed [deleted] cohort for the class exemption for border restrictions,” the report said.
Education NZ urged Hipkins to “issue a clear message to offshore students that New Zealand not only recognizes the difficult position in which they are but that when it is safe to do so, New Zealand is eager to welcome students to return to New Zealand.” “According to John Goulter, the agency’s general manager for stakeholders and communications, the figure of 500 students coming each month as part of a model developed in October “informed by a set of assumptions that modeled historical trends and used them to run several scenarios into 2021.” “These assumptions are not based on any other agencies’ planned work program,” he was quoted as saying. “These assumptions are not based on any planned work program.
In its post-election briefing, Universities New Zealand (UNZ), which represents the eight universities in the country, said that there are 5,200 students enrolled in New Zealand universities but were forced to study offshore online. Chris Whelan, its chief executive, said that letting New Zealand’s borders pass before any new students should be the next priority. About half of them can’t make progress until they get to New Zealand and have to go to laboratories or workshops. We have an obligation to those students,” he said.
For now, New Zealand’s borders remain closed
To greenlight a plan for returning international students from February 2021, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Because of the high demand for quarantine hotels by returning New Zealanders, international student numbers were restricted. There are only 4,500 places available. However, that demand could be cut by 40 per cent when New Zealand starts allowing Australia’s quarantine-free entry, which was reported to take effect in the first quarter of 2021 ‘in principle’ this week. Each fortnight, this would free up some 1,800 quarantine places.
The government is being pressured by educational institutions, including universities, schools and English language schools, to allow international students to take some of those places. In comparison to tourists, the rationale is that most would stay long enough to make it worth paying for a two-week quarantine. In its post-election briefing to Hipkins, Education NZ states that the closure of New Zealand’s border since March “has been the world’s longest and most restrictive,” adding that “New Zealand education providers will be at a competitive disadvantage for years to come,” it says.
On The Mike Hosking Breakfast show via NewstalkZB, founder Brijesh Sethi of the New Zealand Skills and Education Group (NZSEG) said that when it comes to attracting international students, New Zealand is losing ground to other countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK. On November 30, 2020, 63 students returned to Darwin for Australia’s first successful pilot program organized by the Charles Darwin University (CDU), the Northern Territory and Australian governments. Sethi said the country should also have carried out a much earlier” pilot.