International student courses in spotlight

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From a distance: Brazilian Camila Storino Castro is experiencing "real distance learning" as she continues her Southern Institute of Technology masters degree from her home in Brazil. Photo: Supplied

THE Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) is working to get accreditation so international students not able to enter the country are able to start their programmes online.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds said international student numbers had not “changed markedly” compared to last year.

There was a difference of about 150 international students compared to what the polytechnic had previously budgeted.

SIT staff were working with 10 international students who wanted to start their programmes but were unable to because of New Zealand’s Covid-19 border restrictions.

“We are working to get accreditation for new international students to be able to start their course, even if the borders continue to be closed.”

If international students were able to travel to study at SIT, the polytech could take responsibility for those students and management would guarantee they followed all the Government’s rules, including quarantine restrictions, she said.

Ms Simmonds believed the impact on international students studying in Invercargill might be more significant “next year rather than this year”.

“International students correspond to $1.5 million of the total $8 million of revenue from SIT,” she said.

“We continue to do all the work to be ready when the borders open but we don’t know when this might be.”

“We are working to get accreditation for new international students to be able to start their course, even if the borders continue to be closed.”

She admitted it was a challenging time but said a positive decision made in the past helped them to cushion the blow.

The Southland polytechnic had invested in distance learning programmes since 2003.

This meant when the Covid-19 outbreak began, all students were able to use the online platform to continue to work towards their qualifications.

Most students also remained in touch with SIT tutors, facilitators, and fellow students while working remotely.

“I believe the current students we have overseas are only working on their theses.”

That was the case for Brazilian Camila Storino Castro, who is completing a Masters Degree in Applied Management at SIT.

Ms Castro moved to Invercargill about 18 months ago but had travelled home to Brazil in March to visit her family.

She was unable to return to New Zealand when the borders were shut on March 20.

“When they closed the borders, we thought we would be able to return by May but I understand the situation around the world is quite complicated,” she said.

As she was on a student visa, Immigration New Zealand refused her request to return to the country, but she has managed to continue her learning from afar.

“I’m communicating by email and having fortnightly meetings with tutors. I also created a schedule to make sure I keep on track.”

She was unable to terminate the lease of the SIT apartment where she was living with her partner and another two people.

She had tried to post the keys of the apartment but the Brazilian post told her New Zealand was not receiving any parcels, she said.

“So at the moment we have no income, but we are still paying about $500 fortnightly for the house we can’t return to.”

Ms Castro hoped she would be able to return to New Zealand soon.

“I’m enjoying spending this time with my family but can’t wait to get back to my normal life.”

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