The lesson that international students taught us

Venkat Raman –
venkat@indiannewslink.co.nz

The sad saga of international students from India caught in a cobweb of lies and fake documents allegedly spun by their unscrupulous agents in India ended two days ago with the last batch slated to leave New Zealand.

As per an agreement with Immigration New Zealand (INZ), they will be eligible to apply for a visa from India and their applications would be considered without prejudice.

Many of them may apply using the privilege; some of them may be successful.

But none of them will be heard again.

Varied reactions

We have thus far not taken a stand on this issue but we made our pages available to anyone to express their opinions. These included government officials, politicians, students, the Migrant Workers Association and other New Zealanders.

Their opinions ranged from ‘Send them back,’ and ‘Give them a chance’ to ‘Do not destroy their future, let them complete their education and go back,’ to ‘It is not their fault. Allow to stay here, work and then become permanent residents.’

We have often said that the export education industry is not properly regulated and many rogues are capitalising the New Zealand government’s expansion programme which accrues more than $3 billion.

Until 2010, the inflow of international students was manageable and the foul-play of agents was not limited. But the penchant to make New Zealand a preferred international students’ destination opened the floodgates of immigration, making the all-important work visa, which was once a privilege, now a demandable right.

Growing demand

There are 4.5 million international students globally, up from 2 million in 2000, and that is expected to swell to 8 million by 2025, driven by population and income growth in developing countries where local provision is poor.

Some places that have not traditionally hosted many foreign students are trying to grab market share. Japan has a goal of 300,000 foreign students by 2020, 60% more than now; Malaysia, of almost doubling numbers to 250,000 by 2025.

Foreign study took off in the 1980s, when several rich countries started to offer large numbers of scholarships as part of their aid programmes. Rising incomes in poorer countries added a financial motive. Universities in rich countries are often constrained by their governments in how many locals they can recruit and how much they can charge them. Foreigners, who can be charged more, help pad out budgets and subsidise local students. But not every country is lucky enough to have lots of foreign students in doing what is needed to keep them coming.

The beneficiaries

Today, Anglophone countries take the biggest share, since English is quite a useful language to acquire. France is popular with bits of its former empire and pupils from the French-language schools around the world. Germany, which has started to offer postgraduate courses in English and has abolished all tuition fees, even for foreigners, also takes large numbers.

English-speaking countries have benefited hugely from international students. Those students have subsidised locals, kept courses in the hard sciences viable, acted as informal ambassadors on their return—and eased skills shortages when they have stayed. Some countries have seized the opportunity; others have taken it for granted.

It is time that New Zealand revisited its export education classroom, learn from the mistakes and take corrective action.

Asking 191 students to return because the officials failed in their due diligence does not bode well for a country that is known for its efficiency.

Related Topics: ‘International students need better protection on Page 1 and Our Leader, ‘No Mercy for unscrupulous employers under Viewlink on Page 12

Photo:

The last batch of international students housed at the Unitarian Church in Ponsonby, Auckland, before their departure to India (Picture Courtesy: Radio New Zealand)

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