The 2010 and 2011 canterbury earthquakes: managing international students in a time of crisis


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The University of Canterbury in New Zealand is a large public university, with approximately 1,500 international students drawn from 80 different countries. In September 2010, the region was hit by a M7.1 earthquake, which closed the university for two weeks. In February 2011, there was a second major earthquake measuring M6.3, which devastated the city centre killing 181 people. The University of Canterbury was again closed, this time for a longer period and several of its buildings sustained serious damage. This presentation discusses the challenges of supporting international students at a time of crisis and outlines the steps the university took to rebuild its international enrolments, which fell sharply in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

QS Asia-Pacific Professional Leaders in Education (QS-APPLE) 7th Annual Conference, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, November 2011

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The 2010 and 2011 canterbury earthquakes: managing international students in a time of crisis

  1. 1. The 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes:managing international students in a time of crisisProfessor Nigel Healey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) Nottingham Trent University
  2. 2. Overview• University of Canterbury• The 2010 and 2011 earthquakes• Managing after the major earthquakes – September 4, 2010 – February 22, 2011 – June 13, 2011• International students in a crisis – Special features of international students – Difficulties faced by international students – Successful strategies for supporting international students – Some positives for international students01 February 2013 2
  3. 3. The University of Canterbury pre-September4, 2010• Medium-sized, public comprehensive university• 15,362 enrolments (EFTS) in 2010, of which: – 13,960 domestic students – 1,402 international students (9.2% of the total)• Based in western suburbs of Christchurch• Christchurch is a city of 325,000 people – Major international tourist gateway – Major international student destination: two universities, one polytechnic and number of prestigious high schools which attract international students01 February 2013 3
  4. 4. The 2010 and 2011 earthquakes • Pacific Plate moves 37-47mm per year against the Australian Plate • 37-47mm per year = 3.7-4.7m per century • Many of the fault systems from Alpine Fault are not fully mapped • “Most probable date of next big shock is tomorrow” • Strict building codes since 1931 Hawke‟s Bay earthquake (M7.8)01 February 2013 4
  5. 5. The September 4, 2010 earthquake• M7.1 at 4:35am on Saturday, September 4, 2010• Epicentre 40km west of Christchurch, near the town of Darfield• 2 injuries, no deaths• Earthquake occurred during mid-semester break01 February 2013 5
  6. 6. The September 4, 2010 earthquake01 February 2013 6
  7. 7. The February 22, 2011 earthquake• M6.3 at 12:51pm on Tuesday, 22 February 2011• Epicentre 10km south-east of Christchurch• 181 fatalities, from 20 countries; approximately 2,000 injured• Fatalities included many Japanese, Chinese and other international students studying English in a collapsed building in the city• Second day of academic year• Height of tourist season01 February 2013 7
  8. 8. The February 22, 2011 earthquake01 February 2013 8
  9. 9. The February 22, 2011 earthquake Liquefaction01 February 2013 9
  10. 10. The June 13, 2011 earthquake• M6.3 at 2:20pm on Monday, 13 June 2011• Epicentre 10 km south-east of Christchurch• Replica of February 22 earthquake, but: – Preceded by a M5.7 at 1:00pm which led to the evacuation of major buildings – The most vulnerable buildings had been destroyed by the February 22 earthquake and were being pulled down – Mid-winter, tourist numbers very low due to damage to CBD• 46 injuries• Psychologically very damaging• Four days from the start of the end of semester I examinations01 February 2013 10
  11. 11. The June 13, 2011 earthquake01 February 2013 11
  12. 12. The three „major‟ earthquakes in contextNote: Richter scale is logarithmic: M6 is 10x M501 February 2013 12
  13. 13. Managing after the earthquakes• UC had a very sophisticated emergency management system pre- September 4 with: – Incident Management Team – Emergency Management Centre (generator, secure server, CCTV, two-way radio, remote campus control) – Strategic Emergency Management Team• Management teams had practised for emergencies using simulations – earthquake, plane hitting the campus, bomb at graduation, shooter on campus• Emergency response mobilised instantly in all three earthquakes01 February 2013 13
  14. 14. Managing after September 4• University closed for one week• Building checklist: – Checked by engineers for structural integrity – Inspected by volunteer managers for hazards – Cleaned up by volunteer staff• Most buildings reopened within one week• General sense of relief that such a major earthquake caused no loss of life and little structural damage• Second semester timetable slightly adjusted to allow for missed week, no discernable impact on student academic performance in end-of-semester examinations01 February 2013 14
  15. 15. Managing after February 22• University closed for three weeks• Completely different atmosphere, many deaths and injuries, buildings declared „safe‟ after September 4 collapsed on February 22• Building checklist on campus – had to be amended to include modelling for integrity in event of another major earthquake• Many buildings failed this test and could not be reoccupied, some without major repairs, others never• University restarted teaching in large tents• Missed classes replaced by virtual classes on line• Universities offered students the opportunity to go „on exchange‟ to other NZ and Australasian universities – but many chose to leave and transfer elsewhere01 February 2013 15
  16. 16. Canterbury Memorial Day, March 18: one week after Japanese tsunami01 February 2013 16
  17. 17. Managing after June 13• University closed for one week• Buildings could be checked more quickly, as engineers knew the design and most vulnerable buildings already closed• Examinations were due to start in five days – UC‟s Earthquake Facebook site showed very high stress levels amongst students• With advice from Students‟ Association: – Many examinations were cancelled and grades from assignments used to calculate overall course grade – Other examinations were transformed into „take home‟ tests• Semester II started in mid-July, more or less as normal01 February 2013 17
  18. 18. Special features of international students• Correlation between emotional investment in the university and city and: – Period of study pre-earthquake – Level of study (undergraduate vs postgraduate) – Subject major – Home location Local Medium Low International High Medium 1st Years 3rd Years• International Year I undergraduates most at risk01 February 2013 18
  19. 19. The impact on domestic Equivalent Full-TimeStudents -1,500 EFTS = -11%01 February 2013 19
  20. 20. The impact on international Equivalent Full-Time Students -400 EFTS = 30%01 February 2013 20
  21. 21. Difficulties faced by international students• Immediate post-earthquake: – Cell phone networks jammed – In February and June, students evacuated from campus, had to leave behind laptops, keys, etc – No local support networks (families, relatives, etc)• Other difficulties: – Pressure from parents and family to return home – Loss of power, water, sewage in rented properties – Loss of social venues (bars, restaurants, nightclubs) in the city – although most international students effected lass than domestic students – Harder to for international students to cope with changed teaching environment – tents without audio-visual facilities, etc01 February 2013 21
  22. 22. Some successful strategies to supportinternational students (1)• Use of UC Earthquake Facebook site to communicate in both directions with international students – Allows university to know what issues students are facing and develop solutions – University can quickly respond to students‟ questions (and develop Frequently Asked Questions FAQs page for the website – But June 13 showed that it MUST be continuously managed by university to be effective• UC website used a definitive source of information – Very effective communications medium for providing information (eg, new timetables) and promoting positive recovery messages – Disadvantage is that it constantly reminds outside world (including parents and future international students) of the earthquake• Communications strategies dependent on maintaining electricity and telecommunications (Manchester 19th Century in March/April 2004)01 February 2013 22
  23. 23. Some successful strategies to supportinternational students (2)• Priority given to establishing student dormitories safe, contacting international students and organising special social events (lunches, barbeques)• Social facilities for students on campus (InTentCity 6.3) set up alongside teaching tents• Needed to provide students with mobile computing sticks for those without internet access• Hardship funds available to support international students in financial difficulty due to earthquake• Major new international scholarships programme to attract new students for 2012• Support of Students‟ Association crucial to assist international students01 February 2013 23
  24. 24. The positives for international students• International students who stayed bonded very closely with: – Domestic students – Local community• Partly through shared experience of crisis…• …but also through volunteering and the Student Volunteer Army• Student Volunteer Army concept exported to Japan after tsunami01 February 2013 24
  25. 25. The Student Volunteer Army at work01 February 2013 25
  26. 26. Conclusions• University of Canterbury is a major public university – its international student body is a key part of its internationalisation strategy• The 2010 and 2011 earthquakes had a major impact on existing international students – and potentially on future international student demand• UC‟s experience showed the importance of using new social media to communicate with students…• …and the power of voluntary work in integrating international students into their universities and local communities February 2013 26