Universities New Zealand, a voice for eight of New Zealand’s largest universities, is calling for the government to reopen borders to international students.
Director Chris Whelan said that it would be easy for universities to monitor students, and that other countries are looking at doing so.
“If we don’t get our borders opened soon, we are going to just not see their students again and it’s going to take us a long time to rebuild”.
Craccum reported earlier this year that residents at UniLodge Whitaker were told they may need to move out for returning international students’ 14 day quarantine.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said New Zealand has to establish the quarantine facilities needed to let international students back in.
Robertson said quarantine facilities allowing citizens to return home are also at capacity.
“It would be great if we could do it this year, but I think it is much more likely to be from the beginning of 2021,” he told Magic Talk.
Both Universities New Zealand and the student advocacy organisation New Zealand International Students’ Association (NZISA), have said they want to see international students return to New Zealand for their early semester next year.
However, the government has not provided a definitive answer as to when international students can return.
The government has also indicated that international students in the country may have to stay in New Zealand over the summer if they wish to continue their studies in-person next year, as there is no confirmed plan allowing them to return.
NZISA says there needs to be increased support for international students both here and overseas, particularly while the border restrictions are in place.
When asked if universities, including The University of Auckland, are doing enough to support international students, NZISA Public Relations Officer Ryan Wei told 95bFM’s The Wire, “quite frankly, no”.
Wei said that despite universities saying they do care about the students, they are not showing that support.
“We have been receiving a lot of really troubling reports that universities haven’t been engaging with their students, there is a huge lack of communication between universities and international students in general.”
Wei says that there are few international student support staff at each university, and students are quite reluctant to go to the university straight away, as normally there isn’t anything that can be done.
“They [the universities] acknowledge that there is a lot to be done, but that there is not much they can do.”
NZISA has advocated for reducing summer school fees, and extending pastoral care so that international students can be supported if they are unable to return home.
The association cited high unemployment and a lack of financial support as major concerns of international students.
Hardship grants for international students have been offered, but the NZISA says this is not enough.
“Most of them are quite terrified about their future.”
Wei said that immigration policies need to be flexible to keep returning students.
The University of Auckland will return to delivering lectures and assessment for Semester Two in-person but have told overseas students that online learning and assessment will be provided for students who are unable to return to New Zealand due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
Craccum has also reported that the university has set up two in-person learning centres in China which will continue to operate throughout Semester 2.
NZISA has encouraged international students to get in touch with their university’s international student association.
The University of Auckland has the International Student’s Association of Auckland or the International Office for support or advice.