New Zealand may allow international students to come to this country under quarantine conditions, before the borders are opened up again to other foreign nationals.
Universities and polytechs are pushing for students to be allowed to return to New Zealand after a dramatic drop in numbers.
It’s been a major blow to an industry that was once worth $5 billion a year.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins is now flagging the possibility of allowing international students back into New Zealand before the border reopens.
An exemption was something the government was “working through with the sector”, he said.
“It is possible that we’ll be able to put a quarantine arrangements in place for international students coming into New Zealand that sees them quarantining for two weeks, that way we know that when they come into wider New Zealand society they are Covid free.
“And then it may well be possible that we can resume more international education in that environment.”
He said unlike tourists who are coming here for just short stay, international students would usually be here for a year or more.
“And so the two weeks of quarantine that they may need to do, that they would need to do at the beginning of their arrival isn’t as much of a barrier as it is for tourism.
“So it’s quite possible we’ll be able to work with international education providers to manage quarantine at the beginning of, say, a year’s worth of study so that they can come into New Zealand.”
There was “work to do to make that happen”, said Hipkins.
He would directly ask the education providers to “start working up their plans” in the next 24 hours, for what they would do in a “quarantine like arrangement”, if the government reached that point.
Ministers would need to see evidence they would implement what he described as a “hard quarantine model” for any arriving students.
“We could not be relying on trust for example, we couldn’t be putting them in a hall of residence and saying ‘don’t go anywhere’, we’d actually need to know that it was an enforceable model.
“We would need to see assurance, we’d need to see a good concrete proposal but we’re certainly open to receiving that proposal.”