With just over two weeks until the election, major political parties in New Zealand are pitching for better trade and diplomatic ties with India. If elected next month, the National Party announced plans to "revive" international student numbers.
"India must remain to be a top priority when it comes to recruiting international students," stated Penny Simmonds, National Party's tertiary education and skills spokesperson, in an interview with The Indian Weekender, New Zealand's only Indian weekly newspaper
“The Indian subcontinent is a really important part…it's a democracy with a growing economy. And so it certainly features strongly in terms of where we're wanting to get international students from," Simmonds noted.
National's policy includes several proposed changes:
Along with increasing student recuritment, the party announced a raft of modifications to expand working hours and rights to work for international students.
Fast-track visa processing for international students who pay an additional fee.
Increase the hours international students are able to work each week from 20 to 24.
Expand work rights for international students and their partners to make New Zealand a more attractive destination.
Though India has traditionally been a large market for New Zealand's international education market over the years, Vijeta G Kanwar, Director of Operations at New Zealand Gateway, says, “The sentiment is quite positive and we believe that the change in political leadership is going to revive the international students numbers to the glorious pre Covid times! I am quite confident that we will see some really positive results.”
According to an international educator who requested anonymity, "the changes highlighted by the National Party Election Manifesto will encourage International students to seriously consider New Zealand."
Given a highly competitive market, he noted that the changes will take time to restore awareness and overcome nations that have a head start in terms of international student recruitment.
"It won't be immediate, and this change itself in terms of implementation will take time. The goal is to attract students who can contribute to areas of talent shortage," he added.
Part of increasing work rights would be allowing partners of overseas students studying at the level 7 or higher to have open work rights while they are studying.
National also stated that it wanted to "ensure" that international students who studied in Aotearoa in skill shortage sectors "have a pathway to residence." It stated that it would "ensure international students studying sub-degree courses in these eligible areas of skills shortage receive minimum post-study work rights of 12 months and allow their partners to work while they are studying."
Numbers obtained by the Free Press Journal in November 2022 revealed that only 1,486 Indian nationals were studying in NZ. According to Education New Zealand, the country approved 1,677 student visa applications from India between last December and February this year.