Bid to allow new international students study offshore and retain work permits

In its 2020 pre-election manifesto, Quality Tertiary Institutions has said that urgent government measures are needed to keep New Zealand’s international education sector alive and functioning, and that the move would encourage more students to enrol with New Zealand education providers while the borders remained closed.

The international education industry is worth NZ$5 billion to the economy, however earlier in 2020, the country’s finance minister Grant Robertson said international students are unlikely to return to New Zealand this year.

International students could get a New Zealand work visa for up to three years if they had studied a certificate or diploma for 60 weeks, or a degree or higher qualification for at least 30 weeks – but only if they studied in the country

“We need to allow providers to recruit, enrol and train international students remotely”

“We need to allow providers to recruit, enrol and train international students remotely, on the understanding they can continue their studies in New Zealand without any impact on their study visas, once the borders can be safely opened,” QTI executive director Tommy Honey said in a statement.

“This is hugely important to be able to protect the pipeline of international students, for when students can return to New Zealand. Some of our competitor countries are doing it, and if we don’t New Zealand risks missing out.”

Honey added that QTI is not arguing for a premature opening of the borders, “but we are arguing for some common-sense steps now that will assist the recovery of the sector, without compromising safety”.

“Universities, polytechnics and private institutions have all been greatly affected by the closure of New Zealand’s borders in 2020,” he continued.

The proposal to recognise online study for post-study work right purposes is one of seven key cross-sector policy initiatives proposed by QTI specifically in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

To help maintain the pipeline of international students to New Zealand while border restrictions are in place, QTI said the government should ensure:

  • Immigration New Zealand immediately re-starts the issuance of student visas.
  • All providers who have been given temporary permission to deliver online to international students located offshore for 2020 only, be permitted to do so in 2021.
  • Students whose enrolment commences in 2021 qualify for normal post-study work rights even if they have to complete their first year of study or part year offshore in 2021, up to a maximum of 50% of their study load.
  • Auckland post-study work rights be adjusted up to be the same as the rest of the country.
  • The criteria for student pathways visas are broadened to allow more quality providers, including English language providers, to participate in pathways programs that staircase into diploma and degree-level study or higher.

“Tertiary education has been one of the sectors heavily affected [by Covid-19] and yet it will also be required to step up dramatically in the post-Covid world to meet much greater training and retraining needs for New Zealanders.

“This can only be done from a position of certainty and financial security,” he added.

“We completely understand and accept the measures the government has had to take to fight this pandemic, even though they have fallen heavily on the tertiary education sector.

“We now need to look forward and take some practical steps that will keep the sector alive while we await the reopening of our borders,” Honey added.

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