Hawke’s Bay education and business sectors welcome certainty provided by Government’s earlier reopening date for international students

Education providers and business advocates across Hawke’s Bay are welcoming the Government’s decision to bring forward the date international students can enrol to study in New Zealand.

Last week, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced international students will be able to enrol at schools and tertiary institutions from July 31 – two months earlier than the previous October date.

Minister Hipkins also confirmed that international fee-paying students under Year 9 will be able to continue to enrol at New Zealand schools – following an industry consultation that found the benefits for both domestic and international students under Year 9 are significant.

Learning Hawke’s Bay regional manager, Wenhua Yang, says the news is a ‘double win’ for the local sector. Learning Hawke’s Bay is a membership organisation made up of 18 schools and EIT.
“These government decisions provide much needed certainty to Hawkes Bay’s schools, tertiary providers and their prospective students; the earlier timing opens up more opportunity for the sector to plan and prepare to welcome new offshore students,” says Yang.

Before the COVID-19 disruption, international education was New Zealand’s fifth largest export industry, contributing around $5 billion annually to the national economy.
In 2019, Hawke’s Bay had about 1,300 international students – about 40 per cent of them in schools and 60 per cent in tertiary education. These international students supported 730 jobs and contributed about $60 million to the local economy.

“We don’t expect enrolment numbers and economic contribution to suddenly return to pre-COVID levels any time soon, but to be able to finally fully reopen our education offering to the world is a major step forward for our wider education industry,” says Yang.

Puketapu School Principal and Learning Hawke’s Bay Board member, Chris Fox, is one of several local primary and intermediate schools applauding the Under Year 9 review outcome.
“Being able to enrol international students again is hugely exciting for our school and the region’s broader school community,” says Fox.
“Over the past few years, we have missed the added value that international students bring to our classrooms. Having this clarity means our local tamariki can soon once again learn about different cultures and places around the world in an authentic way. Our tamariki are back on the road towards learning to be global citizens.”
Following the immigration announcement, the Government also published its draft ‘refresh’ of the New Zealand International Education Strategy 2022-2030 – which is open for consultation and industry feedback until June 24, 2022.

Hipkins described the refresh of the strategy as recognition “that we are in a very different space to where we were in 2018 and as the borders reopen, we need to support international education to come back even stronger than before”.

“As Hawke’s Bay’s largest tertiary provider, EIT looks forward to participating in the consultation on the NZ International Education Strategy Refresh and what this will mean for international education in our regions, particularly here in Hawke’s Bay,” says Philippa Jones, Executive Director International.

“EIT will be delighted to welcome more international students onto our campuses after Immigration NZ recommences processing international student visas. They bring diversity into our classrooms and communities and all the benefits that stem from this”.

Local business representatives are also feeling optimistic about these announcements.

Karla Lee, CEO of Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce says: “International students help make Hawke’s Bay’s business community a better place. These students contribute to filling skills shortages, enhancing global connections to Aotearoa, and enriching the experience of all students in the classroom through interaction with a diverse range of people and cultures.
“In addition, the economic impact of welcoming international students back to Hawke’s Bay is significant. These students spend money at local retail and hospitality businesses, gain sought after skills and qualifications, and simultaneously enrich our region.”