Image from ENZ Website)
Some foreign students studying online should remain eligible for New Zealand work permits when they graduate, according to a group of private tertiary institutions.
Quality Tertiary Institutions said the move would encourage more students to enrol with New Zealand education providers while the borders remained closed.
It included the call in a manifesto of policies it wanted to see from the Parties contesting in the general election on October 17, 2020.
Foreign students could get a work visa for up to three years if they had studied a Certificate or Diploma for 60 weeks, or a degree or higher qualification for at least 30 weeks – but only if they studied in New Zealand.
Quality Tertiary Institutions Executive Director Tommy Honey said that was not fair for international students who were half-way through their degrees but stuck overseas and studying online because of the pandemic.
He said that they deserved the same work rights as a student studying in New Zealand.
“We have really got to help those people out. Learning offshore online should not impact on their rights to what is called a post-study work visa. New students who started studying from overseas now should also be eligible for work rights,” he said.
Call to resume study visas
Mr Honey said that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) should resume study visa applications from people who were based overseas because the current pause on accepting applications was sending the wrong message.
“That is actually like pinning the closed sign on the door, rather than ‘back in five minutes.’ We have got to really think about the messaging that we have got out there,” he said
Other parts of the private sector were also keen for the government to restart study visa applications for overseas applicants and provide certainty about the return of foreign students.
The chairperson of English New Zealand, Darren Conway, said accepting visa applications would keep foreign students interested in New Zealand and help avoid bottlenecks of applications when the border did reopen.
He said that the Organisation’s members desperately needed support from the government’s $10 million fund for private tertiary institutions that had lost at least half of their foreign enrolments because of the pandemic.
Applications to the fund closed on Friday (September 11, 2020).
Tough for language schools
Mr Conway said that most language schools would not survive into next year without its support.
Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand Chairperson Craig Musson said that some of its 140 members were also hoping for support from the fund.
However, he said that they were not confident of success.
“The criteria was very, very tight. Bit of a blunt instrument to be honest and there will be many that will not meet the criteria and will struggle going forward. Some may end up closing if they do not get this fund,” he said.
Mr Musson said that other private providers were doing well because their domestic enrolments had increased and that the increase included students who had left school early because of the disruption to their studies caused by the pandemic.