While New Zealand is now the top ranked destination international students are eyeing to study according to one survey, it's a catch-22 with strict border restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic - one of the reasons the nation is now so desirable - meaning they can't get in.
It comes after the Government yesterday announced a $51.6 million bail out for the education sector, which has been hammered by the lack of people coming and going from the nation.
International education providers have suffered a dramatic and sudden loss of revenue and have been told not to expect international students for the rest of the year.
Universities and polytechs were not included in the package, though, with Education Minister Chris Hipkins saying they were better positioned than other schools.
Universities NZ chief executive Chris Whelan this morning told TVNZ1's Breakfast the higher learning institutions are "marginally better", but more than anything they just want a plan.
"We're going to be making quite big financial losses this year. We're down at least 6000, 7000 students - that's about $200 million for us just in this year.
"We have 5000 students stuck off shore. They want to know what their future looks like, we want to get them here. They've chosen New Zealand so we're in a difficult place, our students are in a difficult place.
"We appreciate what was announced yesterday certainly will get parts of the sector through but it does mean we've still got some long term problems to overcome."
When asked if he would go to Mr Hipkins to ask for financial support for universities and polytechs, Mr Whelan said he would prefer to find a plan to safely get students back to New Zealand rather than financial support.
"A lot of students have chosen us. It would be great if we could actually honour our contract with them and actually get them here," he said.
"We're getting more inquiries. We saw a survey recently which indicates we are now the most preferred destination in the world for international students, if only they could get here."
The Navitas Insights survey in May asked 400 education agents from 63 countries how strongly they agreed that the way a set of country’s government has handled the coronavirus made it a more attractive study destination.
New Zealand ranked first, ahead of Australia, Canada, Singapore, the UK and USA.
In contrast to New Zealand, Australia and Canada’s leading positions, less than a third of participants said that the UK government’s handling of the coronavirus has made it a more attractive study destination.
But worse, it showed the United States - long considered a favourite of international students - ranked lowest. Over 60 per cent disagreed - including over 30 per cent who strongly disagreed - that the nation was a more attractive study destination.
Respondents were also asked how strongly they agree that over the past two months, the reputation of each country as safe and welcoming for international students had improved.
Again, New Zealand ranked first among the six nations, with the US far behind yet again.