New Zealand celebrated a well-deserved mini-victory on Monday, officially declaring itself Covid-free after having seen no new cases in the country for the last 17 days. This follows 76 days of lockdown (starting 25 March), and is a full 2 weeks ahead of originally planned date.
With restrictions lifted as of 8 June 2020, all schools and businesses are now open, and up to 100 people can gather together. This means Kiwis are starting to resume a “new normal” life, going to restaurants, work, weddings, or in the case of students, attending classes. While social distancing is no longer required, it’s still strongly advised – with almost all Kiwis universally following that advice.
While New Zealand has flattened its curve completely, only NZ citizens and residents can enter the country currently, with a mandatory 2 week isolation period. This obviously has had a massive impact on New Zealand’s tourism and education industries since March.
When Will International Students Be Able to Return to New Zealand?
While there’s still a lot of uncertainty about when borders will re-open (and when international students can return), deciding to study overseas is obviously a long decision-making process.
As such, New Zealand is still encouraging students to apply for the upcoming academic year, and while they are accepting off-shore applications, they’re not currently processing them (given the border situation).
Prospective students thinking about applying (or deferring), can get more information at the Study in New Zealand website, or by speaking directly with their university’s admissions team. Many universities are also doing webinars specifically to answer questions for international students.
Will New Zealand Universities Be In-Person or Online Later This Year?
Part of New Zealand’s strategy that’s allowed them to bounce back 2 weeks ahead of schedule is that all of the country’s institutions were already set up to make the digital transition pretty seamlessly.
In fact, all universities have been open for face-to-face classes since 14 May 2020, although this has largely only been for local students, as international borders have remained closed since March.
Apart from the obvious, one of the biggest challenges for New Zealand has been to find a balance between face-to-face and online learning. Since one of their biggest selling points to international students has always been the unique learning environment (think Lord of The Rings).
New Zealand regards online learning purely as an interim solution for now, until the borders can safely reopen in a phased manner. While this isn’t a definitive answer for prospective students now, it’s the answer currently on the table.
Onsite Measures for When In-Person Classes Resume
Having re-opened to domestic students since mid-May, all of New Zealand’s universities already have a range of Covid-related measures in place, including increased hygiene protocols, as well as smaller class sizes, and staggered schedules. The best way for international students to get specific details about these measures is to contact the admissions office at your prospective school.
While there’s not been specific guidance for international students at a national level, yet in many areas, some additional considerations specifically for foreign students looking at New Zealand include:
New Zealand has a well-respected public health system, which has coped extremely well with Covid-19 thus far. With few exceptions, international students are required to already have approved medical insurance to cover the costs of any treatment in New Zealand, before applying for their student visa. That means that once the borders do reopen, international students should be in good hands. You can visit Immigration New Zealand’s website for more information about healthcare and insurance-linked visa requirements for foreign students.
Working Part-Time Work During Your Studies
The current border closure means most international students aren’t in-country at the moment, but in general, foreign undergrads are able to work under 20 hours per week during school terms, and full-time during holidays, while Masters (research) and PhD students are generally able to work full-time year-round.
To find out more, you can check out New Zealand’s official site for Working While You Study, which offers a range of information about working conditions, visa requirements, etc., for international students.
Is New Zealand’s Post-graduate Work Programme Still Available?
Regardless of Covid-19, it’s not surprising that New Zealand’s always been a popular place for post-grad work experience, with qualified graduates getting up to 3 years post-study work visa. While many students can qualify, New Zealand prioritises people with particular, in-demand skills – this means both post-study work visas and subsequent professional visas are largely dependent on what and where you studied. To find out more about which skills are most in-demend, you can visit the official Skills Shortage List Checker here.
While the current border closure means most international students aren’t in-country at the moment, you can keep updated on any Covid-specific post-graduate working matters on New Zealand’s official immigration site.
To get a first-hand look at what’s happening right now in New Zealand, check out #uniteagainstcovid19 and #inthistogether for videos, updates, and to hear what people in New Zealand are saying as the country reemerges as one of the first in the world to enter the “new normal”.
To find out more about studying overseas during Covid-19 you can contact IDP Singapore.