The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education students in New Zealand


  • Michael P. Cameron University of Waikato
  • Barbara Fogarty-Perry Otago Polytechnic
  • Gemma Piercy University of Waikato



COVID-19, lockdown, higher education, disruption, New Zealand


The coronavirus pandemic and associated move to online learning for students in higher education has been disruptive and challenging. We report on the New Zealand arm of an international survey of higher education students (n = 147). Using quantitative and qualitative data from the survey, we find that students coped reasonably well with the disruption to their studies and were generally satisfied with how their lecturers and institutions responded to unanticipated lockdowns. In comparison with the global sample, New Zealand students demonstrated a higher level of satisfaction. New Zealand students reported the highest satisfaction with recorded video lectures, whereas the global sample preferred real-time teaching. Many New Zealand students felt that their studies were negatively affected, and vulnerable groups such as students with low financial resources were the most severely affected. Moreover, students reported a range of negative emotions during lockdown that suggest mental health impacts may be a concern. Our results indicate that clear communication from authorities, reducing the uncertainty for students, and ensuring that vulnerable groups are appropriately supported, may be the best avenues to reduce negative impacts on students during future significant disruptions to study, whether pandemic-related or otherwise.

Author Biographies

Michael P. Cameron, University of Waikato

Michael Cameron is Associate Professor in Economics and Research Fellow in Te Ngira – Institute for Population Research, at the University of Waikato. He has won multiple teaching awards, and has current research interests in population and health economics, financial literacy, and economics education.

Barbara Fogarty-Perry, Otago Polytechnic

Barbara Fogarty-Perry was Programme Leader, Bachelor of Social Services and Senior Lecturer (Disability and Mental Wellbeing), Otago Polytechnic, Te Pūkenga (at the time of writing). Barbara has almost 40 years’ experience in educational settings ranging from preschool to tertiary education. Her predominant research interests are inclusion, disability and resilience, and sustainability. She has published nationally and internationally.

Gemma Piercy, University of Waikato

Gemma Piercy is a lecturer in social policy at the University of Waikato. She specialises in qualitative research and policy analysis. Her research interests include employment relations and tertiary/adult education and training, the changing nature of work, identity and craft.