15 December 2020 at 9:00 am

From the CE: Farewell to 2020

COVID-19 has been described as the biggest global challenge since World War Two and is arguably the biggest challenge our sector has ever faced. Throughout, New Zealand’s international education sector has been truly heroic in their care and commitment to students, and their agile and collegial response to the impacts of COVID-19.

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2020 has been both the longest and shortest year of my life. It seems like no time ago we were discussing how we could get large numbers of students into New Zealand in time for semester one. Then we were in the midst of a global pandemic.

New Zealand study providers have been admirable in their response. I applaud the way they have ensured that international students in their care have had the information, care and support they needed, especially through lockdown.

Universities, schools and polytechnics, English language schools and private training providers have all moved incredibly quickly. Lectures, classes and assessments were moved online almost overnight.

We heard of fantastic stories of staff members going above and beyond, like that of assistant principal of Havelock North High School, Jamie Kitchin. Jamie opened his home to student Lucas, who arrived in the country just in time for the first term of the year.

In addition, providers and their peak bodies have been a key part of a sector-wide approach – made up of student associations, private and public providers, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations – to respond to the strategic, operational, and pastoral care issues we have faced. Hours have been spent together on Zoom discussing pragmatic responses, like the $1 million Student Hardship Fund and the pastoral care issues around repatriating international students.

I also want to acknowledge education agents both offshore and onshore, who have been instrumental in supporting students and their families and ensuring they were safe and well.

The challenges of 2020 have demonstrated the high calibre of international education in New Zealand.

At Education New Zealand, we also had to rip up our plans for the year and start again.

The 2018 New Zealand International Education Strategy had signalled that change was needed and the sector had to become more sustainable and diverse. The pandemic has accelerated that.

Now, we are guided not only by the strategy, but by the Recovery Plan for international education, with a focus on keeping the New Zealand education brand alive, seeding innovation within the sector, strengthening the system and building on our international relationships.

To date, the most advanced workstream within the plan is the retention of students. You can read about that elsewhere in this issue of E-News.

Elsewhere, ENZ teams around the globe have been engaging with our offshore stakeholders through virtual events, seminars and workshops in support of our new work plan. While travel remains restricted, we’ve found that maintaining those person-to-person relationships are more important than ever.

We’ve launched two brand campaigns (in the UK, Indonesia, Vietnam and China), to keep New Zealand alive in hearts and minds of prospective students. These campaigns have been our most successful to date. The third campaign, Tū Ngātahi, calls on New Zealanders to support international students currently in the country.

And that’s only the beginning. I would like to echo the Minister in saying that we hope to see increased strength, resilience and innovation within international education going into 2021. The international education sector will not only weather this storm, but build back stronger.

Make sure you take time out to enjoy with your family and friends. See you in the new year.

Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini.

My strength is not that of a single warrior but that of many.

Ngā mihi,

Grant McPherson

Chief Executive Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao

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