Offshore Students Frustrated but Hopeful

Offshore Students Frustrated but Hopeful

Many still paying $40,000 a year for online courses

Hundreds of international Otago students are stuck overseas, paying full fees for an educational experience that many feel is not reflective of the cost. 

If you thought a few weeks of online lectures and Zoom tutes was rough, imagine what it’s like to be an international student stuck overseas. Stuck on Zoom for as long as two years, they’ve also been paying full international fees for the privilege: a cool $40,000 per year.

Two years into the pandemic, only a lucky few have been able to wrangle MIQ spots and resume their education in-person. In February, though, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced NZ’s border reopening plan, which included room for up to 5,000 international students to return for Semester Two. 

Tian, a 300-level student in Singapore, said that watching the announcement was “an exhilarating experience”. “I'm very excited that the wheels are slowly turning,” he said, but expressed concerns about whether his expired student visa could be renewed in time. 

Eric, a PhD candidate in Ghana, had a more skeptical view: “I hope the government sticks to their plan… because we're really sick and tired of this bullshitting and having to wait for a long time. In simple terms, I just wanna move forward and put the past behind me.” For some, moving forward has unfortunately meant moving on. After a “meltdown” caused by financial stresses, Monik, based in India, told Critic Te Arohi that he decided to pull out and “say goodbye” to his studies at Otago. 

While borders remained closed, the Uni had still been able to extract full international fees from students stuck overseas. But with more countries reopening their borders to international students (including Australia, the US, Canada and most European countries), once the current crop graduates, tertiary education providers risk losing sweet, sweet revenue if new international students are instead lured elsewhere. According to Universities NZ Chief Executive Chris Whelan, “we'll lose at least 10 years of market share if we remain closed because all our northern hemisphere competitors will be open and taking in students”. 

With the reopening plan has come a wave of hope for many offshore students. “After having to endure such a stressful ordeal at the hands of those who hold the keys to our university education”, said Eric, “there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.” 

This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2022.
Posted 3:04pm Sunday 27th February 2022 by Ransford Antwi.