The strategy will seek to accelerate pillars of its 2018 International Education Strategy – to stabilise, strengthen and transform the sector – and aims to “cushion the blow” of coronavirus on the country’s international education providers.

“The government is acutely aware of the challenges the sector is currently facing”

“Like many sectors that rely on international visitors, international education providers have suffered enormously due to the current travel restrictions,” NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“New Zealand’s international education sector has an opportunity to benefit from our strong health response which means we are one of the few countries in the world where students can come to study and be safe from Covid.

“This can be in the future a significant strategic advantage,” she added.

To stabilise the country’s fifth-largest export earning sector, the government said $20m will be used to support schools to continue teaching and providing pastoral care to international students who remain in the country.

An extra $6.6m will fund pastoral care and other activities for international students, subject to the proposed cancellation of Export Education Levy payments until the end of 2021.

Private Training Establishments – including English language schools – have been allocated a further $10m to “buffer the sharp decline in revenue and maintain a foundation of PTEs for the recovery phase”, the government added.

Additionally, $1.5m has been set aside for English Language Schools to deliver language training to migrants in order to “help them to succeed in our schools and communities”.

Providers should plan for no additional international students in 2020, Education minister, Chris Hipkins reminded, while they should expect to enrol smaller cohorts than previously expected next year.

With that view, $10m will fund new “future-focused” products and services to drive growth onshore and offshore to “ensure a more resilient sector”.

A total of $3m will be spent on marketing activities to ensure the country’s brand is visible and protected in key markets while travel is restricted.

A “unified digital platform” – a prototype of which will be ready October-December 2021 – will provide a strong New Zealand brand and presence to help providers deliver programs to more people offshore.

Education New Zealand will administer an offshore pathways initiative aiming to enable students overseas to begin studying from their home country before arriving in-country to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

A $500k quality assurance process will also be developed to ensure the quality of offshore education.

“The government is acutely aware of the challenges the sector is currently facing,” Hipkins continued.

“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.”

The new funding builds on government support policies such as 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 added.

English New Zealand welcomed the announcement, and said it was “pleased that the extreme impact on the English language sector was highlighted”.

“English New Zealand members, who have run highly successful operations for decades, have made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s reputation as a quality education destination,” executive director Kim Renner said, explaining that they will “be strategically important to the recovery of the industry”.

“They deserve to be supported as most receive no business as usual funding from the government and they have been so severely impacted.

“We want an international education system that’s mutually good for students, providers, and benefits NZ”

“We are now awaiting the criteria that will be applied before we know how the support will flow through to business continuity given we now have more clarity around the ongoing border restrictions,” Renner added.

“Ultimately we want an international education system that’s mutually good for students, providers, and benefits New Zealand economically and socially,” Hipkins continued.

Much of the recovery depends on when the country’s borders can reopen to international students, Hipkins noted, and providers are eager for timeframes on changes for the border closures.

“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,” Hipkins concluded.

Last week, members of the education community spoke to The PIE about their concerns that thousands of international students may have to stay in NZ over the summer holidays as there is currently no quarantine plan in place to allow students who are part-way through their course return to the country if they leave.

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