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International students call for tuition refunds due to 'decrease in quality' of online learning

The New Zealand International Students Association is urging all tertiary institutions and education providers to issue fee reimbursements to students who are currently unable to study in New Zealand due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

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With New Zealand currently into the second week of the nationwide lockdown at Level 4 of the Covid-19 alert system, tertiary students are expected to move to online study with institutions closed.

However, the students association is taking issue with tertiary institutions not issuing either reimbursements or reductions of fees for the first half of the current academic year - in particular, with students unable to complete practical learning requirements, including both lab work and placements.

In a statement released today, the association called for both reimbursement of fees for the first half of 2020, as well as preparation for the second half of the year.

The students are arguing that the current cost of fees for overseas students does not reflect the level of education they are receiving in the current lockdown conditions.

"Institutions and education providers should, for the first half of 2020, reimburse at least half of international student fees," the statement says.

"This reduction reflects the decrease in quality due to online and remote learning compared to in-person learning and teaching, inaccessibility to certain physical services and facilities on campus, and challenges that students are facing due to the transition.

"In the event that the New Zealand Government decides to maintain Alert Level 3 or 4 in response to Covid-19, institutions and education providers should ensure that fee reimbursements are further implemented for international students."

The tertiary education sector is already at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars, should the current lockdown continue.