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COVID-19: Time For Rethink On Education Agents And International Student Recruitment

Government needs to rethink the role of the education agents and New Zealand’s recruitment of international students under Alert Level 2, says New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) chair, Ms June Ranson.

This week the Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, said the Government was looking to enable international students to return to New Zealand if they can be quarantined safely. Universities too are keen to restart the lucrative $5 billion education market.

However, Ms Ranson says now is the ideal time to overhaul the system for international student recruitment.

“We need to ensure that we recruit genuine students who are coming here for a high-quality educational experience and potentially becoming high-value residents. This is preferable to exploiting people who have been encouraged here by many unscrupulous overseas education agents motivated by self-interest and the commissions they collect.

“There needs to be a better selection process for students and monitoring of these education agents. Currently, the education agents are appointed by individual Tertiary Education Institutions and market study programmes on their behalf.

She explains that many would-be migrants are recruited by education agents in their home countries to study for low-level tertiary qualifications on the promise that this form of study will lead to New Zealand residency. There cannot be promises made like this.

“Plus, such students may work for 20 hours a week while studying to support themselves in NZ, and they are often exploited by NZ employers who know they are desperate to get into work and maintain employment in the forlorn hope of working through to qualify for residency.

“This recruitment system and working 20 hours per week, will take jobs from New Zealanders under Alert Level 2 when unemployment rates will rise. It is unfair to the students to give such high expectations and it is unfair to NZ job seekers. We should not be exploiting people like this and depriving Kiwis of job opportunities just to get university fees.”

“The Government can’t have it both ways. Either they provide a decent student experience and realistic expectations, or they stop pretending and fund universities appropriately,” she says.

“On the other side of the coin, while looking at International students coming in, when it comes to the business sector whose employers are seeking qualified skilled migrants who would fit under the Essential Services criteria, it is virtually impossible to get such temporary workers through the current immigration process. This failure to recruit qualified people to fix equipment can result in slowing production lines and staff lay-offs. Even health professional workers are faced with these issues. The question must be asked, “Why is the Government turning its back on business enterprises?”

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