Wellington Scoop

Foreign students returning to VUW, if they can pay

News from NZ Government
The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April.

“Our top priority continues to be the health, safety and wellbeing of all people in New Zealand,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The need to carefully manage our borders is as critical now as at any time in the past nine months. We continue to learn more about the virus and adapt accordingly with stronger and more tailored border protections, depending on risk.

“Within our safety-first framework, we also have a responsibility to carefully balance our decisions, to support New Zealand’s economic recovery.

“This border exception delivers on a part of the recovery plan for international education. It underscores the Government’s commitment to the international education sector, which is important in the country’s long-term economic recovery from COVID-19.

“The students will return to New Zealand in phases, beginning with a cohort of 300 that will be able to return from April, with the remaining students returning throughout the year as MIQ availability allows.

“The return of these students will not affect the ability of Kiwis to return home and it is balanced against the requirement for skilled workers to enter the country.

“They will be subject to the same border rules and quarantine regime as all other arrivals – with any additional restrictions depending on where they come from.

“They will need to book their space through the allocation system and will be billed the standard charges for managed isolation. They also need to be able to do more to support themselves in New Zealand, with the living expenses that are required for international students to be granted a visa now raised to $20,000 – up from $15,000.

“This system allows providers to welcome back students who have made the greatest commitment to New Zealand, and manage pressure on the MIQ system,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Government remains committed to working with the international education sector to ensure options for the broader return of international students continue to be considered, and that opportunities can be taken as and when it is safe and there is capacity to do so,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The annual economic value of this group of 1000 degree-level international students is estimated to be roughly $49 million in wider economic contribution, including approximately $27 million in tuition fees.”

Border exception details

Students with questions about this border exception should contact their providers. The Ministry of Education will continue to work with tertiary education providers to manage this process.

To be eligible for this border exception, students must

hold, or have held a visa to study in 2020
be studying towards a bachelor’s degree level or above qualification
have studied in New Zealand in 2019 or 2020 toward their current qualification
be returning to study with their current provider
need to be in-country to complete their study.

Priority will be given to students who are closest to graduation.

News from VUW
Victoria University acting vice-chancellor Rawinia Higgins​ welcomed the announcement.

”The university will work with the Ministry of Education, Immigration New Zealand and other agencies to manage this process, which will see some Wellington students able to return to study on campus this year.”

News from ExportNZ
Allowing 1,000 returning international students back to New Zealand is the right move by the Government, and hopefully we will be able to welcome more, says ExportNZ Executive Director Catherine Beard.

“International education has contributed $5 billion per year to the New Zealand economy at its peak, and we should do all we can to reopen to this global industry. International education provides critical knowledge transfer and revenue for institutions which have a massive job ahead in training up New Zealand’s workforce, particularly in this environment of reduced immigration.

“Part of ensuring the economy can continue to perform better than expected is making sure that businesses can get the skills and people they need to thrive. This requires both a strong and dynamic education and skills sector, and the ability to bring people in from overseas when those skills aren’t available in New Zealand.”

Continuing to sharpen a risk mitigation and management approach to the border is necessary to make the most of international opportunities and welcome people to New Zealand while protecting public health, Catherine Beard said.


  1. TrevorH, 16. January 2021, 8:05

    What an excellent idea. Let’s bring in a thousand extra people in the middle of a raging pandemic and while facing a constantly evolving virus whose variants may well defeat our existing border protection measures. It’s time the universities learned to live within their means.

  2. Dougal McNeill, 16. January 2021, 8:10

    VUW’s senior management ended 2020 threatening mass redundancies. Job losses would be bad for students, the community, the university. We in NZTEU have been saying: calm down and plan for the long term. This news strengthens our resolve to fight any cuts. [via twitter]


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