Universities in New Zealand
Universities in New Zealand hoped students might be able to enter the country in the middle of next year, said reports. Source: Dean Treml/AFP

Universities in New Zealand are reportedly optimistic about international students’ arrival next year. According to RNZ, universities say their foreign enrolments have remained “astonishingly high” and hope international students can return to the country in the middle of next year.

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan told RNZ that the eight institutions had some 14,000 international students, which was a lot better than initial “doom and gloom” forecasts at the start of the pandemic.

“At this stage our international student numbers are about 70% of what they were pre-COVID, quite astonishingly high,” he was quoted saying.

“A lot of international students have stuck with their New Zealand studies and carried on from undergraduate into postgraduate, but a surprising number of students have been continuing studying remotely, either starting qualifications in the hope they can get here to finish them, or finishing off qualifications where they just haven’t been able to get back.”

The numbers, however, are dropping as students complete their studies. Whelan said universities in New Zealand hoped students could enter the country in the middle of next year, but this would depend on when the country’s borders reopen.

“Even when we get an announcement it’s going to take at least five or six months from the point where we can start telling students ‘yes you can come back’ to them actually being able to complete all the processes and to organise their lives and actually arrive here,” he said.

universities in new zealand

Large numbers of students are not expected to return to universities in New Zealand soon due to managed isolation and quarantine requirements. Source: Mark Mitchell/Pool/AFP

Universities in New Zealand: Students unlikely to return until middle of next year?

Speaking to Study Travel, Education New Zealand (ENZ) Student Experience and Global Citizens director Sahinde Pala said the country’s international students have been through the same disruptions as students worldwide. 

“They have had to study online for periods if the areas they live in are locked down,” she was quoted saying. “That transition is never easy but it’s especially hard if you have just arrived in the country and want to make friends and build networks. During lockdowns, many have also faced wellbeing and financial concerns.”

She added: “The early results from our research suggest international students who have been here during the pandemic have remained remarkably positive about the overall New Zealand experience, despite the challenges.”

The government has been offering support to international students, according to Pala. This includes linking them to the latest official information on what to do during the pandemic, working closely with international students’ associations to understand what students need and to respond to what they tell the government, and setting up an international student hardship fund to help students’ through the lockdown.