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Auckland links up with China to launch ‘live learning’ centres

Chinese students will be able to continue their studies locally until travel restrictions are lifted

The University of Auckland has launched two student education centres in China that will combine online course material with group tutorials at Chinese universities.

Vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater said the collaboration would provide a way to continue tertiary courses for more than 1,000 students who were unable to travel from China to New Zealand because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The centres are based at Southwest University in Chongqing and the Northeast Forestry University in Harbin. They will allow students who are enrolled at Auckland to continue second-semester studies at these universities.

“We are pleased to offer an alternative experience to our students in China who may prefer in-person learning support and the benefits that come from the social dynamics of learning in a group,” Freshwater said in a university statement.

China’s education ministry has approved plans for the collaborative courses.

University of Auckland courses in science, engineering, arts, education and economics will be delivered through online and recorded lectures. Students in China will be able to work in group tutorials with local tutors at the two centres.

All universities in NZ have switched to online courses during the Covid-19 lockdown, and there are plans to reopen campuses in July for semester two if the government eases restrictions.

Freshwater said that international students would be permitted to return to NZ “when the government determines it is safe to do so”. In the meantime, the learning centres will “provide certainty to help students and their families in China plan for next steps”.

Students in China will not pay additional costs for the on-campus facilities or tutorial support, and those who need to relocate to Chongqing or Harbin will receive some travel support. They will be enrolled in University of Auckland credits and pay normal tuition rates.

Brett Berquist, director of international education at Auckland, said the centres would allow students to continue their studies with academic and peer support. He said that students in China had previously faced the choice of studying solely online or deferring their studies until Covid-19 travel restrictions were eased.