The 39th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO last month gave the green light to continue the work on UNESCO’s academic mobility convention, the Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications, with the aim of formally adopting the new convention by UNESCO’s next general conference in November 2019.
Why should this be of interest to the academic community? Over the past generation, there has been an explosion in international student mobility worldwide. According to the OECD, the number of international students in higher education has risen from 0.8 million in the late 1970s to 4.6 million in 2015.
This increase has been accompanied by a growth in interregional student mobility, with 2.5 million international students studying in a country outside their region of origin, according to UNESCO in the preliminary report on a potential global convention.
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In a series of related announcements over the past year, the New Zealand government has set a clear course toward a much more centralised processing model for visas, including student visas. The new approach will rely heavily on online and telephone access to visa applications and related services, with much of the processing occurring “on shore” – that is, within New Zealand itself.
The government began closing public service offices for visa processing across New Zealand late last year. Four offices were shut down at that time, and the process of winding up public counters continues this year. Another office in Wellington was closed on 17 November, the Christchurch location will close on 21 December, and the one remaining office, the central branch in Auckland, is scheduled to shut its doors by June 2018.
On the closure of the Wellington office, as in all other such cases this year, those requiring visa services within New Zealand are being directed to alternate channels. “Apply online if possible using our Online Services, or send your completed application by post or courier to the address provided for your application type on our Office and Fees Finder,” says an accompanying statement from Immigration New Zealand. “If you are in the Wellington area and require any assistance with your current or upcoming immigration application, call the Immigration Contact Centre.”
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