The University of Auckland has set up two remote learning centres in mainland China for students who are unable to enter New Zealand due to travel restrictions.
The two centres are located at the Southwest University in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing and the Northeast Forestry University in Harbin.
China has already eased domestic travel restrictions, with people required to sign up for a smartphone app and assigned a colour code – green, yellow, or red – to indicate their health status.
The colour code determines if they will be quarantined after arriving at another province, or allowed into public spaces.
Around 2,000 students from mainland China have not been able to return to Auckland in February to start Semester One, while the university has said online teaching is being provided to more than 1,000 Chinese students.
While students will still attend university classes online from the two learning centres, there will be face-to-face contact with a learning facilitator to review teaching sessions and materials, and an in-person consultation for any needs.
Learning dates at the learning centres will be the same as the main campus in Auckland, with Semester 2 scheduled to start on 27th July, and students can still choose to study online at home.
However, only courses from “the most popular programmes for international students from China” are offered at the centres.
No extra fees are charged for using the centres and those who choose to relocate will receive $1000 to cover travel and accommodation. Those who relocate will be also responsible for their own housing and living expenses.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week while most restrictions on businesses and gatherings are lifted under alert Level 1, there will still be tight controls at the border.
Even if the New Zealand government lifted travel restrictions on foreigners entering New Zealand, the university said the learning centres in China will continue operating until the end of the year.
It also said while it intends to run practical teaching and assessment for Semester 2, online learning will still be provided to all students.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater said the learning centres will provide certainty and help mainland Chinese students and their families plan for next steps, as it offers an alternative experience to those who prefer in-person learning support and the social dynamics of learning in a group.
Eddie Jia, President of the university’s Chinese Student Society, told Craccum that the two learning centres is not a long-term plan, and the most important priority is for the university to persuade the government to lift restrictions on international students as soon as possible.
“The inability of foreign students to enter New Zealand has caused a certain degree of impact on New Zealand’s economy, and the university also wants to reduce economic losses through new arrangements.”
“Existing online learning methods are okay, but this is not an efficient learning method.”
“Students must study in the school environment to be the best.”
“Whether the quality of education or economic benefits, allowing international students to return to New Zealand is the only correct option for the government.”