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Government spends $52 million propping up export education sector but can't say when in 2021 it'll increase managed isolation capacity to let in international students

Government spends $52 million propping up export education sector but can't say when in 2021 it'll increase managed isolation capacity to let in international students
Jacinda Ardern. Getty Images.

The Government would rather keep borders closed to international students and prop up the education sector, than it would increase managed isolation capacity to let them in - at least until 2021, after the election.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday announced $51.6 million was mostly being allocated towards schools and private tertiary education providers, like language schools, affected by the closed border. He said universities had strong balance sheets and weren’t going to “go broke”, meanwhile polytechs are being funded as they’re subject to major reforms.

Hipkins said work was being done to let “smaller cohorts” of “low-risk” students into the country next year, but he couldn’t provide an assurance this would be done in time for the first trimester.

Asked why the Government wasn’t spending the $51.6 million on efforts to safely let students in, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted a whopping 117,000 international students came to the country in 2018. By comparison, only 31,000 returning New Zealanders have gone through managed isolation.

Ardern denied the looming election was making the Government particularly risk-averse, saying her judgement remained the same, regardless of the political cycle.

“We’re just not willing to jeopardise our health response by scaling up to something that we just can’t do well,” she said.

“We have to constantly make sure we balance all these decisions and that our primary focus is the health and safety of New Zealanders. And that’s how we guard our economy…

“We don’t want to sacrifice our response at the border by scaling up to an initiative that A. Means we have other people who can’t come in first, and B. Means we might have quality control issues as we go.”

Put to Ardern and Hipkins that the health risk is likely to be unchanged come 2021, Hipkins said the issue was largely one of logistics.

“We, of course, will be looking at how we can bring in low-risk cohorts of internationals students first, and how we can then minimise the risk when they’re here - what can we do in their home countries to reduce risk? What can we do in the process of bringing them here to reduce risk?”

Hipkins said students would have to cover the costs of managed isolation.

Pre-Covid, the export education sector was worth about $5 billion, or 1.5% of the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP).

National’s education spokesperson Nicola Willis criticised the Government for not having a timeline, nor a plan to “get this industry back to business”.

“We can expect our many education institutions to now begin the layoffs they have held back due to the wage subsidy,” she said.

Willis also noted much of the $5 billion generated by the export education sector doesn’t come from tuition fees, but rather from spending on accommodation, food, tourism, entertainment and living costs.

Here’s a rundown of how the funding is being allocated:

  • $20 million to support state and state-integrated schools for the remainder of 2020 to continue to employ the specialist international workforce to continue teaching and providing pastoral care to international students who remain in New Zealand.
  • $10 million for Private Training Establishments (PTEs) including English language schools to buffer the sharp decline in revenue and maintain a foundation of PTEs for the recovery phase.
  • $10 million to develop new future-focused products and services to drive growth in our system onshore and offshore, to ensure a more resilient sector. This will include:
    • Allowing students to begin studying from their home country to provide greater flexibility for learners and make our international education sector more resilient to shocks such as COVID-19.     
    • A unified digital platform to provide a single strong New Zealand brand and presence to enable providers to deliver study programmes to more people offshore.
  • $6.6 million to continue the pastoral care and other activities for international students, subject to the proposed cancellation of Export Education Levy payments until the end of 2021.
  • $3 million for marketing activities to keep New Zealand’s education brand visible in key markets while travel is restricted. 
  • $1.5 million for English Language Schools to deliver English language training to migrants to help them to succeed in our schools and communities. 
  • $500k to develop a quality assurance process to ensure the ongoing quality of a New Zealand education being delivered offshore.

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Interesting. No surprise that they won't let any students in until next year. But the unis won't like either the very cautious note about next year or the total lack of support. Especially given the govt has, what, 17b in their pocket?

Wouldn't surprise me to see significant job cuts announced, along the lines of what's been happening in aus in the past month or so. Their government appears quite hostile to their uni's right now, but I'm a little surprised to see it here. Yes our unis can mostly weather this year, but 2021 is going to be critical and this doesn't sound positive on that front.

Well it's not just NZ that's having to do this so is most of the developed World. Canadian's are also playing it safe; Better Dwelling article: Another Canadian Real Estate Headwind: International Students Told To Delay Plans. "Canada has warned international students they may not be admitted into the country. Instead, the government is suggesting international students prepare for online lessons. Under the current travel ban, valid study permits may be denied entry, unless they can prove the travel is non-discretionary. Instead the government will apply online hours towards a work permit upon graduation".

It's definitely a problem everywhere. If anything NZ unis are better placed in that they can teach the students who are here in person.

The other thing that's abundantly clear is that universities don't appear to have many friends right now.

NZherald Headline : Saving NZ's international education sector

Good as should help sectors hit because of Border / Travel restriction.

Will it be normal by 2021..hopefully.

Why aren't the Unis romping up their online education tools and systems ?
This is a good opportunity to spread to the world, via the net.
Come on, Admins. Turn adversity to opportunity, as you teach the students.
Show them how it is done.


Why aren't the Unis romping up their online education tools and systems ?

Because the students weren't coming for the learning. They were coming for the residency after it.

True that. Who is to blame ?


The headline says "the education export sector", but what it should say is "the immigration import sector". When are governments going to start calling a spade a spade?
I believe there is a sizeable number of immigration 'bounty hunters' (agents) in India touting for Indian immigration prospects and funnelling them through the NZ English Language Schools as the best disguised means by which our government hands out residency and citizenship; the 'bounty hunters' are paid commissions by the Language Schools direct or by immigration agencies in NZ. I wouldn't be surprised if these Indian agents were currently lobbying our Government very hard to have the doors to these 'language schools' open up again without delay.

Is the solution accepting students only at universities with halls of residence that can be made into temporary quarantine zones?

good luck with that not getting young people to mix and mingle, as we have seen from australia with schools closing in NSW and VIC (54 today) its nearly impossible

They are.

Mostly the online version isn't as good, though, and that problem is not unique to nz.

I badly want to retrain or undertake a different degree for the sake of personal development and professional diversity. But the institution I'd need to go through doesn't offer lectures online and I'd have to attend during business hours, so it's a no-go.

As a domestic student, there's little incentive to develop that program/platform when they could spend their resources on far more lucrative international students. So that's where the attention and focus has gone, at the expensive of serving the local market.

Is there a reason you're restricted to a single institution? Lots of online offerings rolling out soon, seems you should have choices unless you're after something very specialised.

I'm not a fan of online learning - works well for true/false knowledge, but not for developing critical thinking skills that require discussion and activities. Zoom and chat forums are pretty limited in terms of user behaviours - most people are used to engaging with screens in a way that is completely dissimilar to face to face interactions.

It's definitely not as good. There are advantages in terms of flexibility of course, but those come at a cost to the actual learning.

What I want isn't offered by everyone, sadly. Gotta get away from the idea that people either work OR study.

Try an Australian Uni.
Free PhD fees for kiwis, some Masters also.

The Tertiary marketing arms may need to shift away from India (COVID hotspot - 77,000 cases in Delhi) & China, and start developing markets in COVID-cleaner countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Korea etc.
Also the business model for Universities & Polytechnics (now under the NZIST ownership) needs to shift away from being so desperately dependant on International students for essential income. And the accompanying dismantling of authentic courses.
International students should be joining genuine programmes for authentic cultural enrichment for all parties, and provide some extra income as the icing on the cake - not 20%+ of core budgets.
What is the point of the Govt propping up PTEs running programmes invented purely to enrol only internationals with very low entrance to real industry in their fields? - really just a ticket to work visas. Why not use this opportunity to clean up the entire industry and its immigration schemes?


Otago has a rule capping international students at 15% and at most 25% of those from any one country. Quite sensible, especially with hindsight.

But OP still run an International-only campus in Auckland - run just like a PTE, -PG programmes provided to attract students to the maximum work visas on graduation?
Along with every other ITP, mind you. Needed to keep financially viable back in their home region.

OP is totally different. I mean the university of otago.

Oh yes, thought you meant Otago Polytechnic.
The Universities at least incorporate internationals within existing campuses, although some postgrad programmes have a very high proportion.

Don't get it. We are importing our own people from all over the world right now.

52 Million buys a lot of isolation space and management of same for students. They are here for the long term not a holiday, we should be able to make it work even if the numbers are restricted.

It would be impossible to get compliance in a normal isolation facility.
You would need to lock and bolt every door & window, with a heavy military presence!

Pre-Covid, the export education pathway to Australia sector was worth about $5 billion, or 100% of the Australian owned bank's annual profits.

Not too worry. That pathway might get the chop after our recent humanitarian efforts allowed a persona non grata residency here.
How long until Aussie just start treating Kiwis just the same as every other entrant - we need a standard visa to go across The Ditch?
And, quite frankly, there's nothing wrong with that.

It's an interesting thought. To be honest I'm not 100% convinced that NZ as whole benefits from the present arrangement.

Aussie get the best of both worlds, hard workers that pay taxes but are not entitled to the benefits Aussie citizens or residents receive. And if the kiwis break any rules then ship them back to NZ. Why stop such a system.

Because they will have 1,000,000 unemployed of their own there very soon, and they won't want ours or our 'new arrivals' ?

Article in todays - a 501 deported back to NZ, isolated for 14 days and out he goes. He had been in Australia for 10 years. He is now 40 years old. He went to Australia aged 30 with a string of NZ convictons as long as his arm, acquired before he went. Amazed he got in

When this gets a reset it must absolutely be education only, none of these Nigerian Princeton Universities which are just a cover for people getting scammed into thinking this is a path to residency here and finding themselves virtually bonded into slave labour in gas stations, ethnic restaurants and liquor stores. That must never be allowed to proliferate in this country again

It's ironic that the universities including Auckland University school of business sell to businesses how to be cutting edge and adapt to the ever changing world, Yet can't take their own advice with their own business model.

Because their business model is a cost plus govt top up system for domestic students and an export subsidy driven international market. Domestic students pay increasingly more each year and for what? Why does it cost more to educate someone now then 10 years ago when it shouldn't?

How come smart tvs and mobile phones, cars and computers cost less each year yet the price of education increases. What about the self guided online systems they already have in place?

They are driven by loans just like the housing market. It's a gravy train and an ever increasing bloated bureaucracy. They claim to be the conscious voice of society lol.

'They are driven by loans just like the housing market.'

Mic drop

Well it costs 35k a year to do to university if you are a foreign student. We pay 7k and govt tops up the rest.

Who has 35k????how many young local students families have that? No loans means no students so prices drop. But the govt says no worries we will give you the money.

If there weren't so many Kiwis coming back we could be getting students in right now, so that is another cost these Kiwis coming back are incurring on NZ.
Kiwis who largely seem to think they shouldn't pay a cent towards it, even though often they haven't paid tax in NZ for many years, and even though they would have to eat food for that two weeks anyway and pay for it (which they are getting for free in quarantine).
Even though they would need to accommodation somewhere anyway for two weeks, and probably have to pay for that too, including the power etc that goes with that.
It amazes me that so many of them think this is so much to ask.