The government announced last Monday it would spend $51.6 million from its COVID-19 recovery fund to stabilize the international education sector.
This would be the first step of a three-part recovery plan to stabilize, strengthen, and transform the sector.
Out of the funding, $20 million would be used to support state and state-integrated schools to keep staff responsible for teaching and maintain pastoral care for international students for the rest of the year, while $10 million would go to English language schools.
Another $10 million would go to develop new products and services to allow international students to study in their home country, and enable education providers to deliver more programmes offshore.
$6.6 million would allow the pastoral care of international students to be continued until the end of next year.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the funding would cushion the blow brought to the international education sector through border closures, but warned it is unlikely for international students to be allowed to return to New Zealand until 2021.
“We are looking to the prospects for this sector in the future, where we can manage them as part of quarantine, but that is not something we can safely do immediately,” Ms Ardern said.
Mr. Hipkins also said while the government has no timeframe on re-opening the border, it would allow international students to return when it’s safe to do so, but they would need to pay for their own quarantine if they do come to New Zealand.
Although universities and other tertiary institutions were ineligible for the funding, Mr. Hipkins said they were better positioned because they were part of the “Crown’s balance sheet”.
National’s education spokesperson Nicola Willis said the funding was a “band aid”, as $50m is insufficient to support a $5 billion industry.
“We can expect our many education institutions to now begin the layoffs they have held back due to the wage subsidy.”
Michael Gilchrist, the president of the Tertiary Education Union, told Stuff that the announcement had focused too much on the private sector instead of public institutions like universities and polytechnics.
Meanwhile, Universities New Zealand Chief Executive Chris Whelan told TVNZ that rather than receiving financial support from the government, he prefered having a plan to bring international students back to New Zealand.