International students will have to wait until 2021 to return to NZ, Govt says

Source: 1News

The Government says it's considering allowing small groups of international students into New Zealand, but it won't be until next year and they'll have to pay for their managed isolation.

It comes as an announcement was made today to give the sector a $51 million lifeline as it has suffered amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The long-term strategic recovery plan, backed by the investment from the Covid-19 recovery and response fund, will help stabilise New Zealand’s international education sector.

“The Government is acutely aware of the challenges the sector is currently facing,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

However the Government says it needs more time to sort out logistics in the industry which saw 117,000 international students come into New Zealand last year.

Latest figures show international students are worth $5 billion a year to New Zealand’s economy, the country’s fifth largest export earner.

International students at Wellington Girls College bring in $750,000 a year. Without them, principal Julia Davidson says the school “would be in trouble”.

The Education Minister is now warning against plans for any extra international students this year with $20 million from the bailout being allocated to schools to support them through until next year. 

“We haven't seen the detail yet but we've seen the big picture and it’s a wonderful start,” Ms Davidson said.

Polytechs and universities are not included in the support package - Mr Hipkins says they don’t need it.

“The universities have very healthy balance sheets, no university is going to go broke in the short term because of the decline in international students. I know it will put a strain on their finances but they are well positioned to weather that,” he said.

ACT Party leader David Seymour says he disagrees with supporting schools.

“Schools don't need bail outs and tax payers don't need borrowing, what we all need is a safe reconnection with the world.”

Mr Hipkins said he was aware much of the recovery is dependent on when New Zealand will open its borders to international students, and providers are "eager to get timeframes on when any changes to the border closure will be made".

“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."