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15th Jun 2022

New Zealand moves to active footing for student recruitment with new national strategy

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • New Zealand’s borders will fully reopen to international students as of 31 July 2022
  • Government and industry stakeholders are moving to a more active recruiting posture with the goal of rebuilding the country’s foreign enrolment
  • A number of new immigration measures affecting international students have been announced
  • Education New Zealand is in the process of creating a new international education strategy for the balance of this decade, one that imagines a more diverse enrolment for New Zealand educators and greater emphasis on remote and offshore delivery

Following a limited opening of its border this quarter, New Zealand will resume processing for student and visitor visas as of 31 July 2022. This, the government has explained previously, essentially signals “the full resumption of international education.”

This return to an open border was further marked this month by a high-level international mission from New Zealand, including Education Minister Chris Hipkins, with stops at NAFSA 2022 in Denver, and then in Chile and Brazil. The delegation marks a return to a more active recruitment posture for New Zealand's institutions and schools, and to a determined effort to rebuild the country's foreign enrolment base.

“Our international education sector has done it tough for the last few years. Bringing forward our reopening to all international students shows this Government’s strong commitment to them, and to the rebuild of high-quality, world-class, New Zealand international education,” said Minister Hipkins.

The Minister's comments follow a 11 May government announcement detailing wide-ranging immigration reforms, including several measures affecting foreign students.

More specifically:

  • Students in non-degree level courses will no longer be eligible for post-study work rights, except in cases where they are studying and then working in specified shortage and skilled occupations.
  • For degree-level and other eligible international students the length of time they can work after their studies will be equivalent to their term of study in New Zealand.
  • Masters and PhD students will retain the right to work in New Zealand for up to three years after their studies.
  • Students will no longer be able to apply for a second post-study visa in New Zealand.

“The changes we’re announcing seek to attract students to New Zealand to learn, while also shutting the backdoor route to residency,” added the Minister.

The government has also announced that there will be no change to the ability of international students to enrol in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools. The decision follows an earlier consultative process that considered restricting enrolment for students below Year 9.

"This announcement has been widely welcomed, and demonstrates the government listened closely to feedback received from the sector and other interested parties," said Education New Zealand Chief Executive Grant McPherson. "It’s good news that we can resume welcoming young students and groups to New Zealand schools across all age levels as our borders reopen."

A new national strategy

Education New Zealand is also leading the development of a new international education strategy. The draft strategy addresses the period 2022–2030 and maps out two broad phases of development.

The first phase is concerned with restoring New Zealand's international enrolment in the wake of the pandemic. "Student recruitment is a big part of this phase…The first priority is to help providers rebuild their bases for onshore student delivery, and to rebuild sustainably so that international education can come back even better than it was before and give us the foundation we need to build a new future that is diversified, high-value and resilient."

The second phase of the strategy takes a longer-term view and imagines a future for international education in New Zealand that looks very different from what was in place before COVID-19. This phase anticipates continued growth, but also a more diverse enrolment and a sector that is "less reliant on onshore education delivery."

Recognising increasing competition and other important shifts in the international marketplace, the draft strategy sets out that, "The contribution that international education makes to New Zealand will rely on attracting students from a wider range of markets than we have previously. New Zealand has been increasing its focus on high-value, high-quality education, seeking to maximise and promote its unique offerings, and attract students who want to benefit from the excellent education and student experience that we are known for. There are many opportunities for growth, and New Zealand must stay alert to these opportunities in both new and established markets and in a range of education products and services."

A consultative process for the draft strategy is open for feedback and comment until 28 June 2022.

For additional background, please see:

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