Otago Daily Times

Call for uni­ver­sity sub­sidy to help over­seas stu­dents

- HARRY LOCK Education · College · Higher Education · Wellington, New Zealand · New Zealand · University of Otago · Otago · Chris Hipkins · Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology · Ministry of Human Resource Development

WELLING­TON: Uni­ver­si­ties are be­ing urged to help re­turn­ing for­eign stu­dents pay for their two­week stint in iso­la­tion ho­tels.

In a first small step to­wards re­open­ing the border to the lu­cra­tive in­dus­try, 250 mas­ters or PhD stu­dents will be al­lowed into the coun­try from next month.

The move was touted back in June, to help sup­port the $5 bil­lion in­dus­try.

For each of the stu­dents the plane ticket here also comes with a $3000 bill for their com­pul­sory stay in an iso­la­tion ho­tel.

‘‘It is def­i­nitely go­ing to be a bar­rier fi­nan­cially, a lot of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents have had their cir­cum­stances change,’’ New Zealand In­ter­na­tional Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Sab­rina Al­hady said.

She saw it as an op­por­tu­nity for the uni­ver­si­ties to lend a fi­nan­cial hand.

‘‘It would be a re­ally good in­vest­ment if in­sti­tu­tions can con­sider bear­ing some of that cost and fol­low­ing up on a cost­shar­ing model, so that in­ter­na­tional stu­dents com­ing back in have that fi­nan­cial pres­sure al­le­vi­ated.

‘‘A lot of them will all have to pay for flights to get into the coun­try, which will be un­doubt­edly ex­or­bi­tant and we want to make sure stu­dents are be­ing sup­ported by in­sti­tu­tions.’’

The uni­ver­si­ties have in­di­cated they were pre­pared to con­sider some help but won’t make any de­ci­sion un­til the end of the week.

Al­low­ing 250 for­eign stu­dents back into New Zealand would be a drop in the bucket com­pared to the nearly 30,000 study­ing here last year, be­fore Covid­19.

Uni­ver­sity of Otago in­ter­na­tional di­rec­tor Ja­son Cushen said the uni­ver­sity wel­comed the news and was work­ing closely with Uni­ver­si­ties New Zealand on the project.

‘‘The re­turn of a small num­ber of PhD stu­dents is an im­por­tant first step in re­open­ing our bor­ders to in­ter­na­tional stu­dents,’’ he said.

Uni­ver­si­ties New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Whe­lan said he hoped it was just the be­gin­ning and the numbers would in­crease quickly.

‘‘We un­der­stand that this, as a first step, is about show­ing that we can safely bring stu­dents into New Zealand, with­out rein­tro­duc­ing Covid­19.

‘‘But our hope will be we can scale it up next year once we’ve shown that first step can be done safely.’’

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Chris Hip­kins made no prom­ises.

‘‘This is a sign to the sec­tor, a sig­nal to the sec­tor, that the Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion, and we do want to bring in­ter­na­tional stu­dents back into New Zealand, as soon as it’s safe to do so,’’ he said.

‘‘[It’s] dif­fi­cult to put spe­cific time­frames on that, be­cause there are still so many un­knowns.’’

Cri­te­ria for the first 250 stu­dents was be­ing worked out. Top pri­or­ity were PhD stu­dents mid­way through stud­ies, or those who could not study re­motely.

Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Union na­tional sec­re­tary San­dra Grey wanted the se­lec­tion done in­de­pen­dently.

‘‘We’ve al­ways said that the com­pe­ti­tion for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents is waste­ful of money, and also doesn’t de­liver good re­sults.

‘‘We need to make sure it’s done bet­ter this time, for the good of those stu­dents, and for the good of those staff, and the sec­tor it­self.’’

She said the re­turn of stu­dents should mean uni­ver­si­ties did not need to cut jobs.

‘‘Now the bor­ders are open­ing again, even in a man­aged way, that means they can ac­tu­ally use their very sig­nif­i­cant re­serves, and the sav­ings . . . [from] not re­plac­ing staff . . . [to] see their way into a stronger fu­ture for 2021.’’

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion will con­tact uni­ver­si­ties to work out which stu­dents could come. — Ad­di­tional re­port­ing Otago Daily Times

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