8 May 2020

University has plans for bringing back international students

12:07 pm on 8 May 2020

Victoria University of Wellington has a plan for international students' quarantine it will put to government, in the hope students will be allowed back before the border reopens.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford.

Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford. Photo: The Wireless / Rebekah Parsons-King

The number of foreign students in the country has fallen sharply during the coronavirus lockdown.

The border closure will stay in place when New Zealand moves to level 2 Covid-19 restrictions. But Education Minister Chris Hipkins has flagged the possibility of allowing international students back into New Zealand before the border reopens, if there was a suitable two-week quarantine arrangement.

Ministers would need to see evidence they would implement a "hard quarantine model" for any arriving students, meaning it was enforceable and not relying on trust.

Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford said they had had a plan since late February for a strict quarantine.

The university had identified three facilities in the capital that could take students.

"Hotels or similar facilities that were currently empty because the tourism sector had been under pressure - and they were keen to be involved in supporting a quarantine system."

Under the plan the government would chose the countries from which students could come, based on where community transmission of the disease is under control.

Quarantine would be supervised by university staff and possibly public health officials as well.

There would be pre-flight checks and daily health checks during the 14-day quarantine and a negative test before returning to class.

The university draws students from 115 countries with most coming form China, Vietnam and the United States, Guilford said.

If students could not come back universities and polytechnics would face a big financial challenge, he said.

There were other benefits to overseas students, with 30 percent staying to become part of the New Zealand workforce and those who return home form valuable business and other partnerships.

Guilford rejected criticism from the International Students' Association which has said they are not giving targeted financial help students they desperately need.

"We believe we are supporting students that are here," he said.

"We've got hardship funds operating through my university that international students can apply for."

He expected that under level 2 the campus would be able to reopen, and it had kept courses going online.

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