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Ardern welcomes students back to New Zealand

The prime minister of New Zealand has welcomed international students back to classes at an event at the country’s largest university.

New Zealand's prime minister met with international students and the media at the University of Auckland on September 2. Photo: RNZ

Leading into the next academic year, universities have 50% of the enrolments that they had pre-Covid

At the University of Auckland on September 2, Jacinda Ardern met with returning students.

“It was an exciting milestone today to begin the process of welcoming larger cohorts of international students,” she told media later. “We had a mix of students from around the world both in secondary education and in tertiary.”

Ardern acknowledged that leading into the next academic year, universities have 50% of the enrolments that they had pre-Covid, but continued, “That bodes well for international education to come back strongly”.

“You could see that for many of them [students], coming to New Zealand had been something they had worked towards for a long time and to hear just their joy at being here in New Zealand I think is only matched by our joy of welcoming them here.”

Education minister Chris Hipkins added that feedback from the universities about the level of interest in studying in New Zealand is “really, really encouraging”.

“Some of the institutions will bounce back more quickly than others”

“They’re out there actively recruiting at the moment,” he said of the country’s institutions. Hipkins joined many of them at the NAFSA conference earlier this year.

“Some of the institutions will bounce back more quickly than others,” he explained, praising the work of institutions that allowed international students to study remotely during the pandemic .

“One of the things… that many of the institutions have been doing is they’ve had students studying with them over the pandemic remotely who are now really excited about the opportunity to actually be here in person and so they can’t wait to get here. That will certainly help us to rebuild faster.”

The government is monitoring processing times for visa applications “very closely”, he highlighted.

Photo: Sarah Sung/ LinkedIn

At the beginning of the year when Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities were still in place, there were concerns around visas processing being on hold until August. Borders opened and visa processing fully resumed at midnight on July 31.

“Obviously we’ve only had one month since the visas fully reopened and so it’s difficult yet but what we’re seeing is a good number of them processed within that 10-20 working day period,” Hipkins said.

“We’ll be making sure we are doing our bit to try and help the institutions get their visa through as quickly as they can,” he noted.

Study destinations including the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany have all faced visa processing issues recently.

“We are expecting to see a good strong bounce back in the number of international students studying here in New Zealand next year, it won’t be fully back to the levels it was pre-Covid-19 because it will take several years to build towards that,” Hipkins added.

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