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International students left in lurch following travel ban

The Governments recent travel ban on Chinese nationals and any foreigh nationals travelling through China has set off alarm bells for the New Zealand International Students Association.

NZISA recognises the existing health crisis due to the current spread of coronavirus, however, feels the government has failed to consider the impacts on international students from or travelling through China.

Due to the short notice of the ban, institutions have limited time to respond to or put in place procedures to support their international students affected by the ban.

Failure from government and institutions to respond to the overall crisis in a proactive manner has put international students at an immense disadvantage, the organisation says. The sudden decision to enforce a travel ban has given international students barely a single days’ notice, leaving little to no time for international students to make arrangements with their institutions, Immigration New Zealand and accommodation providers.

The associations says that not only will this greatly impact international students, it will greatly affect the export education sector as a whole.

Despite being unable to travel back into the country, NZISA says international students are financially at a loss and are still obligated to arrange payments for various services they cannot access, including application fees for visas of the students affected which are not being refunded by Immigration New Zealand, international students who have signed contracts and leases with residential halls or landlords, students missing out on classes, who may or may not be receiving advice or support from their institution, will still have to pay their tuition fees and international students looking to defer their course of study have still not been advised as to whether they would have to pay the application fee for another student visa.

NZISA says the export education sector will greatly suffer due to this travel ban. As of 2018, more than 36,000 international students are Chinese nationals, roughly 33 per cent of the entire international student cohort, many of whom will be affected by this policy.

NZISA and the New Zealand Chinese Students’ Association strongly encourage institutions to reach out to their students affected by this travel ban and ensure they are being given support in any way possible, including, but not limited to making changes to the academic calendar to accommodate international students affected by the travel ban, including making provisions to adjust the start of semester, ensuring staff and other students do not discriminate against or show malignity to Chinese students, providing them with sufficient academic support, such as access to lecture and tutorial recordings, providing clear and regular information pertaining to coronavirus, clearly and promptly advising international students of the existing procedures and protocols in place, providing a main point of contact for international students to ensure their concerns and queries are addressed and providing appropriate support to and regularly checking up on any international students in isolation residing in university or other accommodation.

A prompt, appropriate response to the travel ban from education providers is crucial to ensure students are receiving the support they need, for New Zealand’s export education sector to ensure it sets a precedent for other international study destinations, and to push the sector into the right direction with a more student-centric approach, NZISA says.

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