Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway has told Radio New Zealand that the government will ‘hold fire’ on changes to the rights of international students to work while studying.
The admission comes after RNZ revealed that officials were advising a cautious approach in order to protect tertiary institutions.
An Official Information Act request by RNZ revealed warnings from officials that changing student visa settings could damage the international education industry in the wake of falling Indian applications.
According to RNZ, the documents outline risks to cracking down on student visas including less money for the international education sectors, and an uncertain future for some tertiary institutions, creating short term labour shortages and damaging international relations.
The documents also said that allowing students to work in New Zealand after they finish studying has been a factor in “the gradual decline in the average skill level of new permanent migrants” over the last five years.
During the election, Labour campaigned on limiting students’ ability to work during and after studies. The Minister told RNZ that he has decided to focus first on possible reforms to post-study work rights.
Before the election, the Tertiary Education Union cautioned that Labour needed to make sure its policy to limit immigration by reforming the student visa system did not have a knock-on effect on the public institutions that the last government has made reliant on fees from international students.
National changed the tertiary education sector and cut funds by so much that many public institutions now depend on attracting increasing numbers of international students to maintain financial viability.