19 November 2020 at 9:00 am

From the CE: The outlook for the future

I am looking forward to continuing to work with Hon Chris Hipkins who continues as the Minister of Education. We have a substantial work programme ahead to implement the Government’s Recovery Plan for international education to recover and build a new future.

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Many of you are wondering – and fielding a lot of questions – about the outlook for the future as COVID-19 continues to disrupt the world.

It’s very important to acknowledge that COVID-19 is an unprecedented event in our lifetime. While there have been crises, disasters, wars and terrorist attacks, none have had the scale, impact or complexity of this global pandemic. There is little certainty as the world navigates its way through this and looks to the development of effective vaccines to counter its impact.

As New Zealand’s Director-General of Health advises, COVID-19 is a very tricky virus and we have to be very vigilant. The Government is continuing to take a balanced approach to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in New Zealand and to carefully manage demand on the country’s quarantine facilities. We aren’t out of the woods yet and can’t be complacent.

Like many other countries, New Zealand’s border restrictions remain in place. The Government is granting entry to small, targeted cohorts by exception only, and only these visas are being processed. Students are not able to apply for a student visa from outside New Zealand, unless a border exception applies. This decision will be reviewed in February 2021.

Last month we saw the Government recognise the vital role international education will play in the recovery and rebuild of New Zealand and the need to continue the fight against the pandemic. The Minister of Education announced that the Government would allow a small cohort of up to 250 postgraduate (mostly PhD) students into New Zealand. These are students whose study has been interrupted by COVID-19 and who have a practical research component to their study that requires them to be here. Providers are currently selecting these students and they are expected to enter New Zealand earlier next year.

We acknowledge that this exception applies to a fraction of the number of students we normally welcome to the country. Some students and providers may be disappointed not to have been a part of this first border exception group.

The Government says it will review further possible border exceptions to enable more cohorts to enter the country, as and when the time is right, and to then build up numbers when it’s safe for all to do so. But no further decisions around cohorts have been made at this stage.

So, given this information, we won’t see normal numbers of students entering the country in time for term one or semester one next year. I suggest that tertiary students consider starting or continuing their New Zealand study online, until there is more certainty on border exceptions. Students and their families are advised to keep in close contact with their agent or study provider.

But throughout this uncertainty, I can assure you that New Zealand highly values international students and looks forward to their return. Until then, the team at Education New Zealand will continue to tell you as much as we can about the situation here, as soon as we can.

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

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