Stabilising the international education sector will set the Government back $51 million, with a large chunk of it going towards looking after international students who remain in New Zealand.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Monday the Government's plan to spend $51.6 million from the $50 billion COVID-19 recovery fund to help the sector get through the COVID-19 economic slump.
With travel restrictions implemented across the globe, and New Zealand's borders shut-off to non-Kiwi citizens and residents, the economy has been missing out on $5.1 billion from the international education sector.
How the $51m will be spent:
- $20 million to support state and state-integrated schools for the rest of 2020 to continue employing a specialist international workforce to continue teaching and looking after global students who remain in New Zealand.
- $10 million to develop new ways to allow students to begin studying from their home country to provide more flexibility for learners to be better prepared for shocks like COVID-19. It will also fund a unified digital platform to deliver study programmes to people offshore.
- $6.6 million to continue providing care and activities for international students, subject to the proposed cancellation of Export Education Levy payments until the end of 2021.
- $3 million for marketing activities to keep New Zealand's education brand visible in key markets while travel is restricted.
- $1.5 million for English Language Schools to deliver English language training to migrants to help them succeed in schools and communities.
- $500,000 to develop a quality assurance process to ensure the ongoing quality of New Zealand education being delivered offshore.
"We are sensitive to the impact the unexpected loss of revenue will have had on international education providers and the investment announced today will help cushion the blow," Hipkins said.
"New Zealand's international education sector has an opportunity to benefit from the strong international reputation we have gained through our handling of the COVID-19 crisis."
Hipkins said education providers should plan for no international students until 2021.
"While the pandemic is still raging overseas, our borders are our first line of defence against COVID-19. Given the current global situation, I would expect providers to plan for no international students for the rest of the year."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said roughly 117,000 students came to New Zealand in 2018, and by comparison, only about 31,000 people have arrived in the country since mandatory isolation at the border was introduced.
"We are looking to the prospects of the sector in the future, where we can manage [students] as part of quarantine, but that is not something that we can safely do immediately. That is going to take some time and we will need to continue to work with the sector on that."
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said earlier this month foreign students are "much more likely" to return to New Zealand universities in 2021 than at any point this year thanks to COVID-19.
His comments came just days after Universities NZ begged the Government to reopen the border to international students, saying they're staring down the barrel of a $400 million loss if they don't come back in time for the second semester of 2020.
Hipkins said at the time New Zealand didn't have the capacity to quarantine all international students. All arrivals are currently required to undergo two weeks of managed isolation at state-funded facilities.
"That would put our COVID-free status, our very good progress around COVID-19 elimination, at real risk. We don't want to see COVID-19 across the border," Hipkins said.
Universities NZ director Chris Whelan said universities could "provide 24-hour seven-day-a-week supervision" to monitor the students.
"We know that there are other countries that are looking at reopening their borders. 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.”
Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope also said he hopes New Zealand is able to host international again soon.
"Our universities could properly quarantine people in New Zealand and we could get that part of our international economy going again. International education contributes a significant amount of money, some $5 billion a year."