International students have to choose between staying in New Zealand this summer or leaving the country for good as there are currently no NZ quarantine plans in place for them when they return.
This could cause thousands of students who are midway through their courses to forgo seeing their families for the next year or so. NZ International Students’ Association president, Sabrina Alhady told The PIE News they are affected by financial difficulties and employment too.
“International students in genuine financial hardship were eligible to access the International Student Hardship Fund through their education provider, however, we understand that this fund has been fully allocated,” she told The PIE News.
NZISA represents the collective voice among international students studying in the country.
Previously, New Zealand’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson said international students are unlikely to return to New Zealand this year as the country will need time to establish the quarantine facilities needed to let students back in.
New Zealand education minister Chris Hipkins had also said it is unlikely that international students will be allowed to enter this year as COVID-19 is “raging overseas”.
A further announcement is expected to be made in the coming weeks.
“International students are important to New Zealand as we recover and rebuild from COVID-19 and the government will allow them to return when it’s safe to do so,” he said.
International students in New Zealand plagued by financial concerns
A new study by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has exposed the impact of COVID-19 on the well-being, financial situation and educational experience of students at tertiary institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The “COVID-19 and Tertiary Students” report surveyed over 400 students both studying at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and included domestic and international students.
They found that 30% of students said they required greater assistance to cover both accommodation costs and food costs during the lockdown. The majority of students (66%) believe COVID-19 has significantly increased their stress levels or anxiety about money, accommodation or study.
New Zealand’s international education community have responded with initiatives to support students. Some are considering summer school discounts for international students, such as paying the equivalent of domestic student fees for summer school papers.
“However, there has not been any confirmation or formal announcement from these institutions on this,” said Alhady. She added, “We strongly encourage that institutions continue to explore this possibility for international students.”
Executive director of Schools International Education Business Association (SIEBA) John van der Zwan, told The PIE News that SIEBA is pressing for answers for the return of international students who go home in December.
He added that schools are already developing programmes and planning pastoral care services to ensure a good experience for students who decide to stay.