New Zealand Universities at Risk of Losing $500m Due to Absence of International Students

Universities in New Zealand are banking on border restrictions lifting for international students by early next year as they are struggling with a $300m loss as a consequence of COVID-19 pandemic.

Another $200m could also be lost by 2021 if universities put this situation aside, leading to $500m loss in total, Erudera College News reports.

The border closure in March has triggered a decrease in international student admissions in the country, pushing universities to stop renewing casual staff’s contracts and consider making permanent staff redundant in order to lower the spending.  

About $4 billion per year is secured by universities in New Zealand, $1 billion comes only from international education.

International students must pay almost four times higher fees compared to local students, and  most amount of money is spent to support studies of local students.

Regarding this issue, the Tertiary Education Action Group Aotearoa (TEAGA) which advocates for changes in the tertiary education sector has raised concerns over this problem.

TEAGA’s spokesman Luke Oldfield said it will be difficult for New Zealand to attract international students in the upcoming years because mainly students check the rankings before deciding in which country they want to pursue studies. According to him, university rankings will be affected as a result of the corona pandemic.

In the meantime, the President of the New Zealand Association of Student Unions, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, said that the key issue is to review the funding model.  

“I don’t think any party in government is really that keen to have a look at that. We haven’t seen any real impetus from the Labour government or the National government to look at changing the way universities are funded,” she added. 

Whereas, according to the chief executive of Universities New Zealand, Chris Whelan, the most important thing is to reopen the international education in a safe way, but to cut university’s costs in order to continue the operation, meaning that some universities should reduce university building expenses, increase the borrowing or stop the renewal of casual contracts.

Whelan added that universities’ obligation is to assist international students in completing their qualifications, and in order to facilitate them, he added that they could stay for two weeks in the halls of residences.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith, on September 9, told the staff that the number of workers at university must reduce because it is at risk of losing $52.5 million in two years to December 2021.

The Waikato’s vice-chancellor Neil Quigley also informed the staff that the number of workers at university will reduce by the end of the year.

Massey University calculated that its shortfall in 2020 would be $19m, while AUT university also predicts that its loss could reach $26m due to the absence of international students.

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