Sector predicts next year will be “a massive struggle” for NZ universities

Speaking with the New Zealand Herald, Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said that one international student generates as much income as two domestic ones for institutions, meaning next year will be “a massive struggle”.

“We constantly hear that universities have big balance sheets,” he said.

“We have an awful lot of assets…but they’re not things that we can sell”

“Yes we have an awful lot of assets in libraries and laboratories and lecture theatres, but they’re not things that we can sell to cover pay or keep the lights on.”

Recent surveys have suggested that New Zealand’s perceived effective handling of Covid-19 and a drop in the popularity of other study destinations may increase student interest in the country.

Some agents are even touting it as a “safe” destination to prospective students.

However, this doesn’t alter the fact that the border remains closed to non-citizens and permanent residents. Additionally, from August 10 restrictions have prevented those outside the country from applying for temporary visas – including student visas – for the next three months.

Earlier this year before the Covid-19 outbreak became widespread, universities reported a 9.8% growth in international student enrolment in 2018 compared to 2017.

That year, international students were estimated to have contributed NZ$1.2 billion to the local economy.

Last month the government announced among the measures in its long-term strategic recovery plan $51.6 million for the stabilisation of the international education sector.

However the Tertiary Education Union called the overall measures for the tertiary education sector “disappointing”.

“We need a much more comprehensive plan and a much stronger indication of financial support for the tertiary sector,” said TEU national president Michael Gilchrist, who estimates that revenue from one international student is equivalent to three or four domestic ones.

“If the plan is for public institutions to run deficits this year – and we believe that is the plan – then that needs to be stated and restated clearly. But there also needs to be some plan developed and some indication of financial support for 2021,” he continued.

“We have received support in our call for a sector-wide forum leading to a much more comprehensive plan and this needs to be progressed without delay.”

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