New Zealand lost a significant opportunity to enhance post-COVID economic recovery by refusing to reopen the border for international students on time for the second semester, said a chief economist.
New Zealand Initiative chief economist Eric Crampton said allowing international students to go to the country was “a fairly clear step”. Over six months, approximately $ 1.5 billion will be made if the Government opens the border to foreign students – a significant income that will make a positive contribution to the country’s economic recovery after national lockdown.
In a report released by Crampton in early May, ‘Open to mind: education exports and recovery‘, economists note the recent Statistics New Zealand estimate that international students – studying for less than 12 months – spent $ 3.9 billion in the year to March 2019. Overall international tourist spending in the same period was $ 17.1 billion .
In February, local universities encouraged the government to allow foreign students to enter the country under the same protocol as New Zealand returning from abroad, with all new entrants undergoing a mandatory two-week quarantine period. Although Crampton said rejecting students was an understandable step at the time, it is now May – and the Government risks losing “real opportunities” by being overly cautious.
“New Zealand’s COVID free status means international education for universities, the tertiary sector and even secondary schools – this is not just a ‘go back to where we used to be’ … we have a real ability to grow here If you see America … universities are shifting to a truly disrupted way of teaching, “Crampton explained to The AM Show on Wednesday.
“New Zealand can offer a real university experience for students from places that are not easy for us to attract students from. We can market in the US, say ‘come to New Zealand, spend two weeks in quarantine, and have university experience “instead of sitting at home doing online learning equivalent to Zoom.”
International students pay around $ 24,000 per year for tuition, while domestic students pay an average of $ 7,000 on average. There is a lot of money to be made, and Crampton believes the university will have no problem funding a two-week quarantine period if that means overseas students can continue their study.
“I think universities will be very happy to pay for themselves from the fees charged … as long as quarantine can be arranged on a ‘user pay’ basis, why limit it? As long as the facilities can be proven safe and they are monitored, with deportation penalties for quarantine violations to keep everyone safe. .. of course you have to ‘pay users’, “he said.
“I don’t think anyone in the tertiary sector will complain about that.”
Despite some enthusiasm for the idea at first, Crampton said the Minister of Education had reduced optimism after being presented with research by the NZ Initiative a few weeks ago.
The ministry appears to be entertaining the prospect of allowing international students to cross borders in November – or maybe even January, Crampton said.
“I think some of them are losing the importance of time management here. In North America, the semester starts in August. If we try to reach that market and encourage students to go to America’s top schools to come to New Zealand instead, we need open starting around July, “he explained.
Around 22,000 international students study at New Zealand secondary schools each year, the majority paying host families around $ 250 per week for supplies and food. For many families, this additional income is very important for their livelihood.
“It’s real money in the pockets of many families who help them through and provide interesting experiences for their own children,” Crampton said.
“Timing is very important – if we don’t start meeting semester deadlines, we will be left behind [out]. “
In Crampton’s report for the NZ Initiative, he argued that the reopening of the country to foreign students in time for the second semester would not only help the recovery of the hospitality industry and tourism sector, but would reduce the need for stronger central government support from universities. or potential bailouts.
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