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The Government will spend $51.6 million on New Zealand's embattled overseas education sector, as schools and universities continue to reel from the loss of foreign students.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced details this afternoon of the overseas education package aimed at helping stabilise the sector.
The $5 billion foreign student industry has essentially ground to a halt after the Government closed New Zealand's borders due to the Covd-19 pandemic in March.
In an effort to help plug the gap, the Government has announced a stabilising package for the industry, which includes a range of subsidies as well as new policies to support the sector's "recovery and rebuild".
Hipkins said education providers should not expect to bring in students from overseas this year and the Government is "acutely aware of the challenges the sector is currently facing".
“We are sensitive to the impact the unexpected loss of revenue will have had on international education providers and the investment announced today will help cushion the blow," he said.
“New Zealand’s international education sector has an opportunity to benefit from the strong international reputation we have gained through our handling of the Covid-19 crisis.”
Some $20 million will be spent on making sure the specialist international workforce continues to teach and providing pastoral care to international students who remain in New Zealand.
A further $10 million has been earmarked for Private Training Establishments (PTEs), including English language schools to help make up for their sharp decline in revenue.
Another $10 million has been set aside to development new "future-focused products and services," which includes designing systems to help students better work from home.
Hipkins said much of the education sector's recovery in the future comes down to when the borders will be reopened and promised that no universities were going to go broke in the short term as a result of the border closure.
There have been 31,000 New Zealanders who have returned since the borders closed.
Hipkins said he was meeting with industry leaders tonight and there were going to be some "tough decisions" for them to face in the future.
On re-opening the border, he said the Government was working as quickly as it can to provide clarity - but no decisions on time frames had been made yet.
International students, if they do come to New Zealand, would be responsible for the costs of their isolation, he said. The Government would be looking at bringing in low-risk students first.
The three parts of the recovery plan will run concurrently and include:
• stabilising the international education sector
• strengthening the system by ensuring the regulatory settings, policies and practices to support the recovery and rebuild
• accelerating the transformation of the sector signalled in the International Education Strategy launched in 2018
“Ultimately we want an international education system that’s mutually good for students, providers, and benefits New Zealand economically and socially," Hipkins said.
“This work sits within the Government’s final plank of our five point economic recovery plan to continue to position New Zealand globally as a place to trade with, to invest in, and eventually to visit again."
To stabilise the international education system the Government is investing:
• $20 million in support for state and state-integrated schools for the remainder of 2020 to continue to employ the specialist international workforce to continue teaching and providing pastoral care to international students who remain in New Zealand.
• $10 million for Private Training Establishments (PTEs) including English language schools to buffer the sharp decline in revenue and maintain a foundation of PTEs for the recovery phase.
• $10 million to develop new future-focused products and services to drive growth in our system onshore and offshore, to ensure a more resilient sector. This will include:
- Allowing students to begin studying from their home country to provide greater flexibility for learners and make our international education sector more resilient to shocks such as Covid-19.
- A unified digital platform to provide a single strong New Zealand brand and presence to enable providers to deliver study programmes to more people offshore.
• $6.6 million to continue the pastoral care and other activities for international students, subject to the proposed cancellation of Export Education Levy payments until the end of 2021.
• $3 million for marketing activities to keep New Zealand’s education brand visible in key markets while travel is restricted.
• $1.5 million for English Language Schools to deliver English language training to migrants to help them to succeed in our schools and communities.
• $500,000 to develop a quality assurance process to ensure the ongoing quality of a New Zealand education being delivered offshore.
“This funding builds on the work the Government has already been doing to support providers and students, including wage subsidies, enabling PTEs to hibernate, establishing an international student hardship fund, and removing the requirement for providers to pay the export education levy in 2020 and 2021,” Hipkins said.
“I know much of the recovery is dependent on when New Zealand will open its borders to international students, and providers are eager to get timeframes on when any changes to the border closure will be made.
“While the pandemic is still raging overseas, our borders are our first line of defence against Covid-19. Given the current global situation, I would expect providers to plan for no international students for the rest of the year," he said.
“I do, however, recognise the vital role international education will play as we recover and rebuild. The Government will allow international students to return when it’s safe to do so."
Band aid solution, says National
The National Party says today's funding announcement is confirmation that thousands of jobs will be lost in the education sector in coming months.
“Labour have offered just a band aid and have no plan to address the billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs at risk,” education spokesperson Nicola Willis said.
“The international students sector contributes about $5 billion a year to our economy and supports around 50,000 jobs. Most of this money doesn’t come from tuition fees, but rather from spending on accommodation, food, tourism, entertainment and living costs - all of which support Kiwi businesses and Kiwi workers.
“Today’s $50 million announcement is just one percent of the many billions international students bring to New Zealand. We can expect our many education institutions to now begin the layoffs they have held back due to the wage subsidy.
Ms Willis said the Government should be focused on is ensuring New Zealand's border is tight.
"There is no timeline, no plan to get this industry back to business. Today’s announcement from the Government should have been focused around returning international students, reinvigorating our economy and creating jobs. It does none of that.”
- NZ Herald and ODT Online