Speaking with Bloomberg for its Inside Track webinar, Robertson said that it will take time to establish quarantine facilities that are needed to let students back into the country.
“There’s a lot of pressure and need from both students and New Zealand community itself”
An exact timeframe for when international students can come back to New Zealand has not been established.
However, according to a report by RNZ, the government has ruled out students coming back in July and August in time for the next semester.
“Growing our capacity for quarantine that we have absolute confidence in requires facilities that will need to be very carefully designed and used,” Robertson said.
“Moving toward an international student market for that will take some time,” he added.
The uncertainty around entry for international students has led to calls to let post-graduates into the country as key workers, according to one report.
“PhDs are creating new knowledge, epistemology, and solving for issues that are wide-ranging,” Ali Khan, a doctoral student at the University of Otago, told RNZ.
“The ramifications long-term for the schools are that their rankings will go down, their enrolments will go down, their research production will go down and they will lose a lot of credibility.”
Additionally, the New Zealand government is set to release a four-year recovery plan for its international education sector next month.
Minister of education, Chris Hipkins said in a statement that he understood that the international education sector has been significantly impacted by the border closure and that many providers and students are suffering.
“The government and the education sector are working closely together so the international education sector emerges stronger and more resilient from this challenging time,” he said.
“I will be sharing a four-year strategic recovery plan for international education next month. The plan will stabilise and strengthen the system to ensure that it’s mutually good for students, providers, and benefits New Zealand economically and socially.”
Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said his organisation recognised it was going to take time to develop a credible plan to bring back students.
“We hope those plans don’t take too long. There’s a lot of pressure and need from both students and New Zealand community itself. It’s a $5 billion-a-year industry. It creates tens of thousands of jobs in this country.
“So getting it restarted is import for New Zealand but getting it restarted safely is also important,” he added.