Damon Salesa. Photo / Included
Education has been one of New Zealand’s biggest exporters, bringing in US$5 billion a year.
That was before the government introduced border restrictions as part of its precautionary measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The big question now is, “Will international students return after the border reopens?”
The Herald spoke to two CEOs who took the Mood of the Boardroom poll to get their predictions.
“There might be a short-term boost due to the many offshore students waiting to come to Aotearoa, but we predict a slow recovery,” says Damon Salesa, vice-chancellor of Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
“New Zealand is the last of the major English language study destinations to open the borders to international students and our immigration conditions are less favorable.”
He says there’s a problem with the pipeline.
“Students have been at universities for several years, so it will take some time for the changes to translate into a similar level of students as before.”
University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater says: “The University of Auckland has been retaining and recruiting students while the border was closed by offering to teach online and through five learning centers in China. We build on a solid base.
“Government policy is on quality over quantity, meaning New Zealand is unlikely to see pre-Covid student volumes.
“But I expect the University of Auckland to go back to our 2019 numbers in the next few years.”
China remains the largest source of international students in New Zealand.
According to Freshwater, the University of Auckland had more than 5000 Chinese international students in 2021.
“Many of these students have studied with us in China, both online and at the China Learning Centers we set up in response to the border closure.
“Other students come from India, Malaysia, South Korea, Hong Kong, the US, Indonesia and Vietnam.”
The picture is similar for AUT, where Salesa says students from each region face their own challenges.
“Many students from China are currently reluctant or unable to travel abroad to return or start on campus.”
The New Zealand border reopened in July, but there were stricter residency and employment rules for international students.
Salesa says these “will have a negative impact on international recruitment, especially for countries like India”.
“While New Zealand has reduced labor rights after college, other countries have recently increased labor rights.”
He says: “We want to be sure that Immigration New Zealand can handle the volume of processing applications for 2023.
“They have indicated that they will not process international student visas until three months before the start of the first semester of 2023.”
According to Freshwater, the rule changes affect the sub-degree sector, with master’s and doctoral students entitled to three years of post-graduate work rights and undergraduates up to three years depending on the time they study on campus.
“However, in the context of an international competition for talent, Australia’s Department of Education has announced that post-graduate employment rights will be reduced from two years to four years for selected bachelor’s degrees, from three years to five years and four to six years for selected master’s degrees for selected PhDs,” says Freshwater.
“This makes Australia more attractive to international students, outperforming Australia and other English-speaking countries – Canada, the UK and the United States are opening up to students much earlier than New Zealand.” We have to catch up at a time when competition for students is fierce .”
Both vice chancellors want to see improvements in visa procedures and processing, which they see as essential to recovery.