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Waikato Celebrates International Student Community

Te Waka, Waikato’s Regional Economic Development Agency is leading a regional approach to celebrate and enhance the delivery of regional International Education solutions through a partnership with Education New Zealand, the University of Waikato, Wintec, Hamilton City Council and Secondary School Education providers.

Hamish Bell Chair of Te Waka notes that “International Education contributes much richness to the Waikato community adding diversity of culture, language and experience as well as a wealth of skilled and qualified employees for our workforce. Beyond richness – there is a significant economic contribution that international students add to our region, both directly through institutions as well as indirectly in the community.”

With the challenges of COVID-19 the international education sector has faced the challenge, as have many, of closed borders. Uncertainty of the timing of future student intakes and security of the number of placements that will be available in 2021 has encouraged the Waikato to band together and provide a collaborative regional approach.

Currently underway is the Student Summer Initiative offering a wide range of educational and recreational activities to enable our International students to experience New Zealand culture, connect and provide for a community of support over the Christmas season when many of our International students would normally have returned home to their whanau but are now unable to do so.

Wintec CEO David Christensen says “This initiative is a continuation of what our focus has been all year during and post-COVID – that is a focus on people, our students and making sure everyone is looked after.

It has been a difficult year for our international students, who are away from home for a long time now, and it is important to do the right thing.

It is a good opportunity for the region to give back something to these students, who for many years, have made a valuable contribution to our region and institutions.”

The region is united in establishing a unique COVID-19 recovery plan. The health and wellbeing of our community which includes our existing international students is our number one priority. However, there is a need for us to prioritise for and plan for the return of this important part of Waikato’s community and economy as a region of excellence for world class education.

We will be working closely with our local education providers, Hamilton City Council and other interested parties to build a sustainable recovery plan to ensure we can bring our international students back into the Waikato safely.

Professor Alister Jones, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the International Team at the University of Waikato are supportive of the various initiatives.

“Our region has many leading education institutions, businesses and local Government agencies and I am excited about the opportunity for us to work more closely together to showcase our strengths and support our international students through these unprecedented times. Our international students make a significant contribution to our community, our workforce and our campuses and we are looking forward to being part of this new International Education Strategy supporting our current students and welcoming new international students to our region in the future.” said Jones.

Hamilton City Council are also supporting the initiatives underway, Councillor Ryan Hamilton says “As chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, I am keenly aware that our support of the education sector is an enabler of our overall success. When Hamilton was selected as the new home of Te Pūkenga, we were proud to highlight our diversity, inclusivity and culture of innovation that is due in large part to the international students who call our city home. We’re proud to support the efforts to ensure the wellbeing of these students while also working with Government to safely welcome new students to New Zealand.”

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