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The international education sector risks losing up to $40 million a year if the Government implements changes to make it harder for international students studying graduate diplomas to get post-study work visas, National MPs Michael Woodhouse and Simeon Brown say.

“International students are a critical revenue stream for our Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), and those studying graduate diplomas alone bring in as much as $40 million a year,” Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“A change proposed by the Government to require students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas to study in New Zealand for at least two years before becoming eligible for post-study work visas fails to recognise the higher calibre of those studying graduate diplomas.

“Many of these students have already obtained bachelor’s degree and should get the same post-study work rights as those graduating from bachelor’s degrees in New Zealand.

“If the Government doesn’t make this change to its proposal, some in the international education sector estimate that student enrolments could drop by at least 50 per cent in 2019, which would see the industry and our economy lose out on millions of dollars. The ITPs have been clear that this policy would destroy a significant part of the sector.”

Associate Tertiary Education spokesperson Simeon Brown says Education New Zealand estimates the proposed change could affect up to 17,000 international tertiary students and cost almost $500 million in export earnings per year.

“ITPs are already under financial pressure due to a strong labour market and the Government’s proposal will put even more financial pressure on the sector,” he says.

“International students studying graduate diplomas bring a wealth of experience to New Zealand and often fill vital skill shortages. By completing post-graduate diplomas, they are able to add to their knowledge and broaden their skillset.

“Where there are issues of quality or student exploitation, these should be addressed through individual examination of providers, not whole-scale immigration policy changes that will have unintended consequences for the sector and the wider economy.

“The Government must urgently exclude international students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas from the requirement to study for two years in order to obtain work rights, before it starts to have a real impact on enrolments.”

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