Chris Hipkins revealed more details a day after New Zealand announced its borders will reopen for international students from July 31.
“Our international education sector has done it tough for the last few years,” he said. “Bringing forward our reopening to all international students shows this government’s strong commitment to them, and to the rebuild of high-quality, world-class, New Zealand international education.”
The earlier-than-planned reopening will “be seen as great news for our universities, our polytechnics and wānanga, as well as for our schools, English language schools, and for private training providers”, he continued.
“It was great to hear minister Hipkins announce in-study work rights would remain”
“It’s time to show the world New Zealand is open for education – and we welcome students back.”
Changes in post-study work policies have been welcomed by the sector, however student organisations have been critical of Hipkin’s use of the phrase “backdoor residency”.
On May 11, the government announced students in non-degree level courses will no longer be eligible for post-study work rights, unless filling specified occupation shortage gaps, and that the length of post-study work opportunities will mirror the length of students’ courses. This means that students studying for 30 weeks will no longer be eligible to work for up to three years in New Zealand.
“We won’t be going back to national’s volume over value approach that became a backdoor to residency for lower-skilled and lower-paid migrant workers, who were then at risk of exploitation,” Hipkins said.
New Zealand International Students’ Association said it was shocked by the minister’s “blanket statements” suggesting that international students had “misused” the residency pathways.
Such statements promote false narratives of immigrants stealing jobs and suggest that international students are responsible for labour exploitation, the organisation said.
“Frankly there is no need to use such language, which unfortunately fuels the existing anti-international/ anti-migrant and prejudicial attitude in the community,” NZISA president Vikram Selvaraj said of the term “backdoor residency”.
The organisation had received several complaints from international students concerned that the statements “create the impression that international students are somewhat ‘dishonest’”, it said.
Hipkins insisted that the changes are being made in order to “ensure students are getting the most out of their study here and can move into meaningful work”.
“The changes the government announced yesterday will help ensure these students are getting value for their money and that those who stay on are helping fill skills gaps and contributing to the economy,” he said.
Executive directorEnglish New Zealand, Kim Renner, noted that in-study work rights have more direct impact on the country’s English language sector than post-study work rights.
“Engaging in part-time work in the community is a positive part of the English language student experience,” she told The PIE.
“It boosts learning and wellbeing, provides students with a broader cultural experience, and supports regions throughout New Zealand as students spend on tourism and cultural activities to further enhance their time in New Zealand. It also makes us competitive as a study abroad destination, and it was great to hear minister Hipkins announce in-study work rights would remain.”
English New Zealand noted that assurance is needed from Immigration New Zealand to ensure “they will process visas for English language study quickly in support of the sector’s recovery”. Yesterday, Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara indicated visa processing capacity is the one question remaining for students if they are to arrive in the country in time for the 2023 academic year.
The reopening is “an opportunity to better align our international ākonga, and their programs of study, with identified skill shortage gaps to meet employer needs in all regions of Aotearoa New Zealand”, Angela Beaton, deputy chief executive of Delivery and Academic at Te Pūkenga, New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, added.
“We’re already working with our global partners to ensure we’re ready to create opportunities both in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally. This supports and aligns with the new Te Pūkenga International Education Strategy, on which we are working with our colleagues across government to implement,” Beaton noted.
On May 12, the minister also announced that the government would no longer introduce a ban on primary schools enrolling international students following consultations.
“In the end, we decided that the benefits for both domestic and international students under Year 9 are significant and we want them to continue,” Hipkins noted. The minister will also be travelling to the US and South America from late May to early June to promote New Zealand as an international education destination. The government noted Chile and Brazil as two key destinations in South America.
Further travel opportunities are being sought over the next six months to encourage international enrolments for 2023, the government added.
A refreshed international education strategy is required as the country recognises that it is “in a very different space to where we were in 2018”, it continued.
“We want to work with the sector to build a new future”
“As the borders reopen, we need to support international education to come back even stronger than before,” Hipkins said.
“We want to work with the sector to build a new future, focused on the delivery of more high-value and innovative international education offerings for domestic and international students, on-shore, off-shore, in person and online.
“I look forward to hearing the sector’s views on the strategy, which will be open for consultation from May 13 to June 24, 2022.”
“We can now work together with the sector to rebuild our international education sector to be a major contributor to New Zealand,” ENZ chief executive, Grant McPherson, said.
“And look forward to students from all around the world enjoying the benefits of a New Zealand education, and New Zealanders enjoying the benefits these students bring to our communities.”