The new government, led by New Zealand’s youngest ever prime minister Jacinda Ardern, was formed after New Zealand First leader Winston Peters chose to align with Labour, almost four weeks after election day.
“Hopefully we can convince them to change some policy.”
Of particular note for international education, Labour ran on a platform to reduce net migration by up to 30,000, primarily through the removal of work rights for students pursuing “low level” and “low value qualifications.”
According to Labour’s education spokesperson Chris Hipkins, the cuts would remove $130m from the New Zealand economy, but former education minister Paul Goldsmith said it was “closer to $1bn.”
Initially, it appeared likely some form of crackdown on international students would take place if Labour formed government with New Zealand First, after the latter outlined similar policies to “end [New Zealand’s] dependence on international students.”
This point has been thrown in doubt, however, after New Zealand First removed those policies from its website just before the September 23 election. It is unclear why this occurred, but Peters later promised significantly more stringent reductions in net migration, down to 10,000, in the final days of the campaign.
Christine Clark, chair of ITENZ, the representative body for private training establishments, told The PIE News that she believed Labour’s proposed cuts would have a significant economic impact on international education, but added she was hopeful stakeholders could help work out a better policy.
“ITENZ does have a good relationship with both Labour and New Zealand First, and we will be talking with them,” she said.
“Hopefully we can convince them to change some policy. Both parties have listened in the past, but Labour did not quite understand. They have also promised to not rush into dramatic change which we are very pleased about.”
Whether Labour will change its plans seems unlikely, after Ardern reiterated Labour’s intent to stick with its immigration policies over the weekend, during an interview for on New Zealand television station TV3’s program, The Nation.
“Labour’s policy remains absolutely unchanged as a result of these negotiations [with New Zealand First]. Our policy remains in place,” she said.
New Zealand is currently developing a new strategy for international education. It is uncertain whether the change in government will have an impact on the final document.