The journey to the recovery of international education in New Zealand

The journey to the recovery of international education in New Zealand

Last updated 4 December 2020
Last updated 4 December 2020

John Goulter, General Manager Stakeholder and Communications

When we begin the journey to reform vocational education, no-one could have foreseen what 2020 would bring and how it would impact our lives and the work we do. The international education sector is one of the sectors that has been significantly impacted and with borders closed to almost all travellers, the impacts are likely to be felt for some time yet.

In July, the Prime Minister and Minister of Education announced the Recovery Plan for International Education to support the rebuild, recovery and reset of the international education sector, with part of this plan being the return of students to our shores. In October, the Minister of Education announced the approval of up to 250 PhD or other postgraduate international students to enter New Zealand under the first border exemption for international education. This was an important symbol of the government’s commitment to the international education sector. It’s helping keep the New Zealand reputation alive as a centre of international education excellence.

While that exemption had a university focus, the Minister talks about accommodating more international students when it’s safe and there is capacity to do so. We expect future cohorts to be more broadly focused.

The opportunities surrounding Te Pūkenga are exciting, as we have a significantly sized provider, with growing capability to act as one. As outlined in the recent article by Te Pūkenga, setting the strategic approach to internationalisation is an important focus for vocational education. Education New Zealand is excited to be working with Te Pūkenga and its subsidiaries.

The opportunities presented through the creation of Te Pūkenga mean we can present an offering to our international partners beyond just student recruitment, while helping the sector deliver the International Recovery Plan’s future vision.

Another important part of the work ENZ has been doing while the border has remained closed is to ensure New Zealand’s brand stays alive in the hearts and minds of international students. We know the importance of keeping a consistent, strong presence, given the challenges of rebuilding your brand and reputation after a long period of silence. That is a big focus of our efforts, including the recently launched Tū Ngātahi initiative that aims to show support for our international student community.

ENZ has also continued to support the sector through events that have been transferred online, such as the Sino-New Zealand High Vocational Education Conference, taking place from 30 November until 2 December.

This conference has happened for the past eight years and this year is being co-organised by WINTEC and Skills International, along with their Chinese counterparts. It offers vocational education professionals from New Zealand and China the opportunity to come together to showcase best practice in the delivery of vocational teaching.

By moving it online, vocational teachers are able to experience this valuable learning opportunity even when travel is difficult. It is another good example of how our sector has adapted and continued to remain visible during these challenging times.

All of these activities should put New Zealand in a strong position, both for when we can welcome international students back to our shores and for exploring other ways of achieving our internationalisation goals.

It’s been a tough year for us all. 2021 will be critical, as the recovery and the establishment of Te Pūkenga both gain momentum.