Covid 19 Delta outbreak: international language industry says reopening borders for students is too late


Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said the reopening date puts New Zealand at least six months behind the rest of the world. Photo / Stephen Parker, File

By John Gerritsen of RNZ

The government’s decision to let vaccinated foreign students return to the country from April 30 has disappointed and frustrated some in the international education sector.

They say April 30 is two to three months after schools and universities have started teaching for the year, and five months later than the close competitor, Australia is reopening its doors to international students.

They warn that New Zealand will lose its competitive edge and that what was once a $ 5 billion a year industry will take years to recover.

English New Zealand President Darren Conway has said April 30, 2022 is too late.

“The problem is we are so behind everyone else and New Zealand is just, I think, definitely going to lose market share to the rest of the world because of how slow we have reacted. Australia is welcoming international students for example next week, starting December 1. We will be five months late. Why?

English New Zealand President Darren Conway.  Photo / Peter Meecham, Dossier
English New Zealand President Darren Conway. Photo / Peter Meecham, Dossier

Conway said English-language schools are holding on by the nails.

He said about six or seven of English New Zealand’s 20 member schools were now in “hibernation” and more people would be likely to join them if they could not recruit new students by May this year. next.

Conway said schools would rebound as there was pent-up demand for English classes and English New Zealand would push for an earlier opening date for international students.

“Maybe we can hope that they will see that the pace of change elsewhere in the world is much faster than here, but they have been exceptionally firm. I guess one thing we can say here is’ is that at least they gave us a date, but it’s a pretty cold comfort when they’re so far away. It’s very, very disappointing. “

Universities were the biggest enrollees of international students, and New Zealand Universities CEO Chris Whelan said he had agreed that the date of the border reopening put New Zealand at a disadvantage.

“We’re now going to be the last of the traditional international education countries that will still either be closed to international students or force students through managed isolation. It’s great to have the date to reopen at the end of April, but it is is always going to put us at least six months behind all other countries. “

Whelan said universities are likely to enroll new students for the first semester of next year, using online education to work with students until they can arrive in person.

“On average, it takes about five to six months from making an offer to a student for that student to figure out everything they need to do to get here, including flights, visa processing and the simple fact. to sort out his finances. So we really want to make offers now if we can so that the students can start arriving as soon as possible in the first semester of next year, “he said.

Schools International Education Business Association chief executive John van der Zwan said he did not expect a flood of enrollments following the government’s announcement.

“The recovery for the school sector is going to be gradual. I think what it does is signal the start for a while over the next year, which is great, but it doesn’t change our expectations. in terms of a reasonable flow of students probably up to 23 and beyond. “


Van der Zwan said the government wanted the newcomers to self-isolate next year and that it could be difficult for foreign students staying with local families.

He said schools would only have 1,000 foreign students by the end of this year, up from around 14,000 before Covid.


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