New Zealand should open borders for international students

New Zealand should open borders for international students

Vital for economic growth, employment and progress

Rowena Singh

Auckland, August 9, 2020

New Zealand borders need to be opened to International students.

The loss incurred to the economy and to universities is extremely high, especially considering that New Zealand is able to manage the return of the international students safely.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) figures as at the end of May 2020 showed that international student numbers had declined significantly.

Decline in numbers

Our universities had 17,570 students, polytechnics 9308 and schools 10,506 – about half the number of students in those segments of the education sector enrolled in 2018 when the total number of foreign students was placed at 110,790.

In late April, there were 13,101 students from China in the country, 12,226 from India and 2788 from South Korea. The US was the only country with fewer students with valid study visas in New Zealand, 870, than out of New Zealand, 1064.

The figures highlighted the downturn of about $5 billion which comes from the international student industry.

International students boost our economy: Image from University of Auckland website

Universities lose $200 million

Universities New Zealand Chief Executive Chris Whelan said in an article, which appeared in, that it would cause New Zealand’s eight universities a loss of around $200 million in international enrolment this year and that the loss would double next year if graduating international students went home and no newly recruited students were allowed in to replace them.

The loss is also to the international students who miss out on their education and to the multi-cultural community that they contribute to New Zealand.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand has managed a zero Covid-19 community transmission. This was done diligently enabling the country to be one of the first in the world to come out of the pandemic crisis.

The only Covid-19 cases that come through were from returning New Zealanders.

Borders closed

Due to this, New Zealand’s borders are strictly controlled.

The Ministry of Health website states that under Alert Level 1, people within New Zealand are able to travel and mix more freely.

However, it is more critical than ever that New Zealand borders are carefully controlled to keep Covid-19 out of the country.

People entering New Zealand must stay in managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days and complete a health assessment and return a negative Covid-19 test before they can go into the community.

Allowing foreign students

This could also apply to international students who could stay in managed isolation (in hotels) and or quarantine for 14 days and after a health assessment which states they test negative for Covid- 19, they could then join the rest of the New Zealand community.

International students could pay for the 14-day accommodation while they are in managed isolation if they are able to do so. Otherwise. this could be considered under the hardship grounds and paid by the New Zealand government.

International students bring colossal amounts of revenue to the economy through enrolment, food, accommodation and hence supporting their quarantine costs would be deemed an investment.

International students could come from countries where the pandemic is under control, including  Pacific Island countries where there are no or very few cases of Covid-19.

Travel Bubble

This argument is similar to New Zealand’s travel bubble with the Pacific countries and countries with managed cases of Covid-19, where there are zero community transmission.

The other issue raised in connection with international students is the question of, particularly of poorer students, who are not able to work 20 hours a week.

Currently, under student visas, students are able to work up to 20 hours a week.

However, due to Covid-19, there is already massive unemployment.

Some students are exploited by local businesses paying below the minimum wage. Such employers must be punished under the existing laws.

The government and communities could work together to create more employment for international students as they are for the rest of the community.

Rowena Singh is a freelance journalist, photographer and videographer. She lives in Auckland. Email:

Related posts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: