International student numbers inching up

International students are trickling back into Dunedin, but a support group says it will be some time before numbers are back at pre-pandemic levels.

Otago Polytechnic has 200 international enrolments and expects to have at least 325 by the end of the year.

A spokesman said the majority of international students were at its Auckland International Campus.

Of the 5000 international students allowed to arrive in New Zealand in April on student visas, the polytechnic expected about 30 people to enrol for the second semester.

Deputy chief executive of corporate services Philip Cullen said the latest announcement should give prospective international students more confidence to apply for study, as long as they satisfied public health requirements.

The polytechnic had worked hard to maintain international relationships with a range of partners to ensure it was well placed for any rise in numbers returning to study with it, he said.

University of Otago international director Jason Cushen said more than 260 international students were returning to the university in 2022, with more than 100 already there. The remainder were expected back before the end of September.

In 2019, before the Covid pandemic, about 3000 international students attended the University of Otago, Mr Cushen said.

Southern Institute of Technology international department head Chami Abeysinghe said the polytechnic had about 300 international students enrolled for this year, most returning students.

International education support organisation Study Dunedin said it would be a long time before international student numbers were up where they used to be.

Study Dunedin economic development adviser Santashree Mitra said overall international student numbers in Dunedin had dropped significantly, though precise figures were unavailable.

At this stage of the partial border reopening only students from visa-waiver countries could enter New Zealand. Other students allowed to return were those who had prior approval from institutions through border class exceptions.

It was good news that starting in October Immigration New Zealand would process all student visa applications, Ms Mitra said.

"Though it will be a long time before full recovery, secondary schools and tertiary institutions are working collaboratively with the Study Dunedin Advisory Group to engage with offshore students."

In 2019, New Zealand had a little over 22,000 full-time international students paying total tuition fees of $562.3 million, a Ministry of Education spokesman said. The figures for this year were estimated to be 70% of the 2019 figure, he said.

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