The government’s border class exemption plans, announced in early February, mean that some students will be allowed to return before wider student visa processing resumes in October 2022.
A total of 1,450 spaces have now been allocated to universities, 700 to Te Pūkenga (New Zealand’s institute for skills and technology), 1,000 to schools, 850 to private training establishments, and 1,000 to English language schools.
Chris Whelan, chief executive of Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara, said that “although New Zealand’s eight universities on their own could have filled the places in the latest allocation of exemptions, the government has a formula to calculate how they are distributed across all tertiary sub-sectors and that is only fair and as it should be.
“We in turn have a formula to ensure universities’ allocation of 1,450 places are distributed fairly – based on the number of international students each university had before Covid.”
Schools, ELSs and PTEs will need to apply for places, due to “the number of providers”. Education providers will then determine which students the spaces will be allocated to.
On March 16, the New Zealand government also announced that it has brought forward plans to open its borders to visitors. Fully-vaccinated travellers from approximately 60 countries will be able to enter the country from May 2, without needing to quarantine on arrival.
Some education providers hope to see the plans for all international students to return brought forward too. Current timelines mean that international students – outside of the 5,000 returning in April – will be unable to commence studying in New Zealand until 2023.
“International students should be prioritised for re-entry, particularly those who have already committed to New Zealand”
“Given the government’s ongoing changes to border restrictions, we would like to see the limit lifted and that 5,000 expanded to any students who can get here for second semester in July and August,” said Whelan. “International students should be prioritised for re-entry, particularly those who have already committed to New Zealand.”
In 2019, 34,000 international students were enrolled in New Zealand universities, generating $1.25 bn per year for the country’s economy, but the sector has taken a hit since New Zealand shut its borders in March 2020.
For now, Whelan is optimistic about the return of students in April. “Universities are prepared for and looking forward to welcoming these students in time for second semester,” he said. “With a much earlier lifting of border restrictions, many other international students could be joining them.”