It is not clear if the government’s decision to “hold fire” on international students’ work right is good news or not.
"What I have decided to do is focus on post-study work rights and to just to hold fire on in-study work rights because they have a very direct impact on the tertiary providers,” Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.
By asserting that, the Minister had clearly taken the side of Private Tertiary Institutes (PTEs) and not of international students, given that “impact on tertiary providers” is the primary driver behind this decision, and not any compassion for the international students.
It is not to suggest that international students would necessarily despise the token of holding “in-study work rights,” but only to emphasise that the government has made it clear where do its interests lie.
It seems that the reality of being in the government is fast catching up with the Labour Party, much to the delight of main opposition National Party.
“Labour was told all along that removing the work rights of international students was unfair and would jeopardise one of New Zealand’s biggest export earners and an industry which provides thousands of jobs, but they jumped on the anti-immigration bandwagon anyway,” National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said.
So Labour finds itself standing unusually along with the National Party on supporting PTEs – a stand that many in the Party should detest from, given the high moral ground that the Party took on PTEs before the election.
The interests of PTEs have once again been given preference, which obviously will be in precedence over the international students – a situation that several groups empathetic towards international students would not be appreciative of.
It’s not to suggest that interest of PTEs and international students could not co-exist, in fact, both are major constituents of $4.5 billion rich international education-sector and should be nurtured appropriately in the best possible way.
However, interests of international students are often overlooked at the first given opportunity, only because they lack a collective bargaining power against those who conveniently exploits them – be it offshore education agents or onshore education providers.
Not to forget the department of Immigration New Zealand (INZ), which has so efficiently perpetuated the myth that international students have flourished on “back door” pathway to migration.
It has been argued elsewhere in the paper that pathway from international education to permanent residence is not a “back door” to migration.
In fact, if it was a “door” then it has to be deemed as a “front door,” duly opened by the government of the day and operated by INZ, and not “back door.”
By any means, international students do not have much collective bargaining power, a general situation where Labour Party puts a lot of emotions and passions. Thereby creating huge expectations among segments, those are seen lacking collective bargaining power.
Indeed, international students are one such territory which is often at the mercy of those who often exercise unequal power over their situation, and it seems that the Labour Party has disappointed them so far.
Neither it has been able to take moral high-ground that it was so passionately claiming in the pre-election campaign by coming out and firing all cylinders and taking away 20-hour “in-study work rights.”
Nor it has been able to take pragmatic steps to bring relief to the situation of international students.
In fact, holding back the fire on “in-study work rights” will create anxiety in the highly competitive international education market and will do more harm than good for anyone.