Current international students who won't be affected by proposed post-study work changes could still be exposed to exploitation, advocates say.
The government has proposed changes to work visas in response to concerns about the quality of education and study being used as a back door to residence.
The changes could dramatically restrict the ability of foreign students to work and live in New Zealand once they have finished studying.
But the work right entitlements for those studying at bachelor level and above would be more generous.
The proposal also includes getting rid of the need for those students to have an employer endorsement, which the government said forces a student to become too dependant on their employer to stay in the country, leaving them open to manipulation.
Immigration lawyer Alistair McClymont said the government has correctly identified one of the root causes of exploitation.
When students graduate, they have to have a job offer from an employer which is relevant to their qualification, Mr McClymont said.
"It was that policy that was one of the main causes of exploitation in this market," he said.
Mr McClymont said many issues lay within the lower-level education providers and incentivising university study could go a long way to fixing the issue.
But while the government was making good on its promise to curb exploitation, advocates said, they were worried the changes didn't go far enough.
Migrant Workers Association spokesperson Anu Kaloti said it was a great first step but current students wouldn't benefit.
"That signals we will still have an underclass of international students who will still be open to exploitation," Ms Kaloti said.
Mr McClymont said many current students here need to be given an opportunity to retrain in order to give them a realistic pathway to residency.
Meanwhile, the National Party said the government's plan won't slash the number of students coming here.
Its immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the minister campaigned on a big reduction in the number of students, and these changes won't accomplish that.
Mr Woodhouse said National welcomed the back down but believed it would create uncertainty in the sector.
The public can provide feedback on the proposed changes until 29 June.