Comment permalink

Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said his organisation - which represented eight...
Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said his organisation - which represented eight universities - recognised it was going to take time to develop a credible plan to bring back students. Photo: ODT file
The government has ruled out international students returning in July and August in time for the next semester but will be announcing a recovery plan next month for the $5 billion industry.

Ali Khan, a doctoral student at the University of Otago, has been stuck in the United States since early this year.

He said he would have made other plans if the government had made it clear much earlier students wouldn't be allowed back for next semester.

"There hasn't been any advice from the university or the government and how they're handling PhD students, doctoral candidates and researchers. Because our stuff is time-sensitive and it requires ethics and guidelines, and peer reviews and networks with our supervisors - it's not something we can sit online and do."

Ali Khan. Photo: Supplied
Ali Khan. Photo: Supplied via RNZ
Khan, who was researching the Human Rights Act and its influence on long-term employment, said he would miss an important opportunity to collect data for his research if he could only come back next year - and the data he had already collected would be outdated.

He called for the government to treat PhD students and doctoral candidates as essential workers because without research and publication, New Zealand was going to "lose its strategic position in a very competitive market."

"PhDs are creating new knowledge, epistemology, and solving for issues that are wide-ranging from medical operations, supply chain management, policies, laws, regulations, international business, hospital administration, financial sector, labour market performance, and so on," he said.

"The ramifications long-term for the schools are that their rankings will go down, their enrolments will go down, their research production will go down and they will lose a lot of credibility."

Student saying ban will damage reputation

Johnnie Wang, a student at the University of Auckland, was angry when he saw an email from the minister of education, Chris Hipkins, to the university, ruling out a return of foreign students for the start of next semester.

The email said "international students will not be returning to New Zealand in July or August this year. We hope that a suitable model can be developed so we can start to bring in small cohorts of students and begin building up towards 2021".

Wang, who was also a student representative on the university council, said: "There is no reason why we believe that international students from other countries like China and the UK will be more likely to carry the virus than a Kiwi from China or the UK," he said.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has been urged to reinstate the post-graduate student allowance....
Education Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo: Mark Mitchell
Wang said apart from the loss in revenue, the ban will damage the country's academic future and reputation, and it was not only unfair to those who could not come back but also unfair to students who were here.

"Our university is forced, actually by the government, to consider how to survive and how to help students who are trapped off-shore. Originally we could focus on providing higher quality education and to more students."

There are 9000 people overseas with valid New Zealand study visas.

Universities have plans

Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said his organisation - which represented eight universities - recognised it was going to take time to develop a credible plan to bring back students.

"We hope those plans don't take too long. There's a lot of pressure and need from both students and New Zealand community itself. It's a $5b-a-year industry. It creates tens of thousands of jobs in this country. So getting it restarted is import for New Zealand but getting it restarted safely is also important."

Whelan told Morning Report "We are also not surprised. The failures over the last couple of weeks are showing taking a little bit longer to get it right is important...

"We have plans in place [to accommodate thousands of students if they came back] but we fully understand that our assurance is not enough. It's got to be the government that's defining what are the standards and monitoring and assuring that those standards are actually met.

"We are working with government on that."

He said universities had some strong quarantine plans in place.

"We're actually able to do things like make staying in quarantine a requirement of your visa. If you breach quarantine you will be deported and we have stand-alone facilities where we can look after these students."

He said universities had respect for the mood of the nation and only wanted to restart when they could do so safely.

The national president of the Students' Association, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, said there was another big problem that also needed to be fixed.

"We need to make sure that international students who are still in New Zealand are supported. There are a lot of different ways that international students have been saying that they can be supported. One way is to refund the international students that have paid for tens of thousands of dollars for studies they were not able to access," she said.

Hipkins said in a statement that the plan the government was releasing next month would outline how it intended to help the sector recover.

"We know that the international education sector has been significantly impacted by the border closure and many providers and students are suffering. The government and the education sector are working closely together so the international education sector emerges stronger and more resilient from this challenging time," he said.

"I will be sharing a four-year strategic recovery plan for international education next month. The plan will stabilise and strengthen the system to ensure that it's mutually good for students, providers, and benefits New Zealand economically and socially."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed Australians will be barred from free study and...
Hipkins said in a statement that the plan the government was releasing next month would outline how it intended to help the sector recover. Photo: Jessica Wilson

Covid-19 response leads to increase in applications

Auckland University of Technology vice chancellor Derek McCormack told Morning Report all universities were seeing increases in applications, over 50 percent more than last year and more than that in some cases.

"There is a demand to come to New Zealand and that will be due to a number of factors, and one of them will be our success in dealing with Covid here," McCormack said.

Preventing international students from returning would cause "big implications for the universities financially, [and] big implications for students that are part way through their studies... and for the economy

"We are looking at the possibility of a $50 million revenue hole if no students can come back ... in 2021," McCormack said.

Universities needed to know by August whether a return next year was going to be allowed, he said.

And getting support of the public was a big issue.

"We want it to be a safe entry, we want to ensure that we don't put the nation's health in jeopardy. "

He said, however, that there was a strong economic case for the students to return.

There were a range of measures that could be taken to police quarantined students at universities.

Some included online education, good staffing and security to ensure the quarantine was sound.


View all

The real problems have just started.
It is now obvious that the government was sitting on its hands while in lockdown.
That's the problem when it's run by a team of three plus Winstone and the adolescent Greens.
Now is not the time to start planning the options for opening up the country !!!
It was back in March !!!!
This government has the forward vision of a snail.
Great to see their corporate welfare program is paying off.
I see that Tourism Holdings, the owners of Waitomo Caves which received $4 million of our taxpayer dollars, has increased its share value by 245% since the lockdown.
No doubt the shareholders will be voting Labour for their support but I won't be.
This government clearly knowns how to get into a box but shows no insight of knowing how to get out.
It's NOT a pandemic that is driving this country into recession, it's the usual pathetic economic governance.

I do not agree with you at all....

You have hit the nail right on the head no plans to move forward as usual they are terrified if there was a cluster before the election they will loose and as such will keep the fear mongering going like you I will never vote labour as it now seems the new tail Wagging the dog will be the greens and their wealth taxes

I have problems with international students returning, IF the cost of PROPERLY MANAGED quarantine is born by them. They are a diffrent case to Kiwis returning home. There is of course the issue which is the elephant in the room ... and it is that of educational institutions throughout NZ being dependant on fee paying students. This is not healthy. Education should be free and fully funded. Maybe the increase in the availability of apprenticeships will a better alternative than many Uni courses which have little or no prospect of employment upon student graduation, but do incur vast debt. Reducing student numbers in universities will prevent unneccessary debt for young people. Tradespeople are in short supply and earn more than university graduates ....unless of course you like driving trucks, which is ultimate. I hold every heavy vehicle licence and a Uni degree to teach secondary school. It has been costing me $20,ooo a year to teach .... I should be driving.

Yes bring in students, on a self funded quarantine arrangement as soon as we can. First make sure that the process will be safe then go for it. It will not only help the Universities, rather than handing out money, but through the quarantine process it will also help the strugglling accommodation and food service sectors. Once the processes and facilities are in place then others will be able to enter through the same channels also.

Johnnie seems a bit ignorant. I would think if the Government had a real choice it would keep the returning kiwis out as well. Its about managing the load at the border. Our quarantine systems have been very effective at keeping the virus out, but people under pressure make mistakes. Systems have been strengthened and it would seem there has been a reasonable response. As the inflow of kiwis reduces, then it logically follows that others will be allowed. But placing the system under too much pressure hasn't really been a good idea. Given its been in place since first week of lockdown, I would say these systems were in principle though of, but no one knows how it will behave until challenged. Now that it has been, the holes have been identified and filled. But it will mean that it will not be until next year when international students will be able to return.

View all

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter