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New Zealand’s relative success against Covid-19 now gives Kiwi universities a unique opportunity to attract a new wave of keen international students, according to a report by the New Zealand Initiative.

In the report, Open for minds: export education and recovery, chief economist Dr Eric Crampton highlights what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Kiwi universities to reinvigorate their foreign student numbers as the pandemic crisis is brought under control.

International students are a significant source of income for universities across the country and partially make it possible for young New Zealanders to attend university at discounted rates.

While international students are a small proportion of universities’ student muster, they provide a disproportionate amount of universities’ funding.

Dr Crampton said the machine of tertiary education was well-oiled before the pandemic and remained in an excellent place for the government to push the “start” button once again. But pushing that start button would require strict quarantine measures for incoming students.

“Tertiary institutions wishing to admit international students during the pandemic would need to provide quarantine facilities approved by their local Medical Officer of Health. A strict two-week quarantine for incoming students would ensure safety.”

New Zealand’s relatively safe status would make New Zealand more desirable as foreign study destination. And international students would also be very welcome where other tourism will take longer to come back.

“While New Zealand’s universities are excellent and provide world-class undergraduate education, they are not as prestigious as some in the US or UK.

“But after the Covid-19 crisis, New Zealand’s overall safety compared to them, makes our universities a much more attractive option. Universities risk losing all international revenue if the border is not reopened to international students,” he said.

While life will not return fully to normal for some time, New Zealand will be the least disrupted place in a rather disrupted world, Dr Crampton added.

Opening universities earlier than other countries may also make it possible to attract high-quality academics to teach the new classes as universities abroad have implemented hiring freezes.

“The Covid-19 crisis gives New Zealand’s tertiary sector a real opportunity to become more desirable as a destination for foreign students,” Dr Crampton said.

“But it cannot happen unless the Government prioritises re-opening the border to international students, with appropriate quarantine provisions, while encouraging speedy visa processing. There is substantial opportunity for benefits extending well beyond the university gates.”

Read more:
Open for minds: export education and recovery is available here.

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