This is despite prime minister Jacinda Ardern saying on May 7 that the border remains “unchanged” and that the country will “continue to keep our borders closed except to Kiwis”.
“It is possible that we’ll be able to put a quarantine arrangement in place for international students”
At present, international students are unable to enter the country under most circumstances. Just 75 student visa holders entered New Zealand in April compared with 6,774 at the same time last year.
“It is possible that we’ll be able to put a quarantine arrangement in place for international students coming into New Zealand that sees them quarantining for two weeks, that way we know that when they come into wider New Zealand society they are Covid free,” Hipkins told local media.
“And then it may well be possible that we can resume more international education in that environment.”
He added that were this to happen, education providers would need to create plans for quarantine arrangements for incoming international students, adding that the government would “actually need to know that it was an enforceable model”.
“We could not be relying on trust for example… We would need to see assurance, we’d need to see a good concrete proposal but we’re certainly open to receiving that proposal,” he added.
When Canada brought in similar measures, universities housed students in separate residential quarters and delivered meals to them.
The University of Wellington said that it developed a quarantine plan in late February for international students should regulations be eased.
Among its plans is using empty hotels for housing students, pre-flight and daily health checks, and requiring of a negative test before joining classes.
The number of visa applications to New Zealand reached their lowest point from July 2019 – April 2020 since 2012, with just 87,030 applications.
Although there was a slight increase in the number of visa applications from Indian students, Chinese student visa applications dropped from 34,626 last year to 21,851.
However, the New Zealand International Students’ Association has been critical of moves to bring in more international students as it believes ones already in the country are not adequately provided for.
It has accused the sector of prioritising profit over student wellbeing.
“Using New Zealand’s Covid-19 response as an opportunity to market international education and increase international student numbers highlights the hypocrisy of profit-driven universities that are currently not sufficiently supporting international students’ hardship in New Zealand,” it noted in a statement.
“The lack of hardship support available for international students from universities is exacerbated by universities’ blatant desperation for more funding from the prospective international market while ignoring current students’ hardship.”