Otago Daily Times

Call for university subsidy to help overseas students


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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