Following last year’s New Zealand election results which found the Labour-led coalition taking power, ambiguity remained regarding the future of international education -- particularly given the Labour party’s net migration reduction platform. Now comes news that the country’s immigration minister has launched a consultation on the post-study work rights of international students.

Here’s a closer look at the development, as recently reported by The New Zealand Herald.

Changes Ahead

Citing an effort to clamp down on the exploitation of international students as well as to ensure that migrants who are granted residency are contributing valuable skills, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is seeking to alter the country’s immigration policy. One proposed change? Eliminating post-study rights as well as employer sponsorships for international students completing less than two years of study.

“Too many students are being sold a false dream in New Zealand that the current post-study work rights can put them on a fast track to residency here,” explained Lees-Galloway. (The situation is further complicated by challenges to quality and the defrauding of international students.)

A Welcome Change?

According to the NZ Herald, the proposed changes are welcome by many, including its universities. Said Universities New Zealand Executive Director Chris Whelan, “The previous system permitted unscrupulous employers to exploit students and often saw students end up trying to get jobs with qualifications for which there was no real demand...These changes simplify things for students, while encouraging them to get qualifications that will open doors to more meaningful jobs. That’s better for them; it’s better for the employers who are constantly dealing with skill shortages. And it’s therefore ultimately better for the country.”

However,  others suggest that the changes may detrimentally impact New Zealand’s reputation as an international education destination -- particularly in regards to students currently enrolled in its programming.

Said New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) chair June Ransom, “There are many overseas students who have invested in our education system who now find themselves unable to stay in NZ due to not finding the appropriate job relevant to their studies...These students were encouraged to enroll on the grounds that upon completion of successful study, a pathway to NZ residence would open up.”  

One possible solution? “An offer to extend study at a reduced cost in relevant fields could go some way to reducing that damage and restoring faith,” Ransom proposed.