The Labour Party's election promise to slash foreign student numbers could result in the loss of 10,000 jobs, according to the organisation representing private tertiary institutions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's party campaigned to lower the number of student and work visas issues to foreigners by 20,000 - 30,000, as well as decreasing the number of students taking part in "low-value" courses.
Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand (ITENZ) chairwoman Christine Clark warned this could have huge implications for the sector, as well as for polytechs.
Some independent tertiary institutes dealt exclusively with foreign students and would be forced to close and as many as 10,000 jobs could be lost.
She added there was a confusion between "low-value" and "low-quality" that needed to be addressed, pointing out that the courses in question were of the same level as qualifications for trades apprenticeships or healthcare assistants.
"That's your qualified tradespeople -- all your vocational qualifications are those levels," she said.
Clark imagined any independent courses to do with business would be targetted first because these were "non-qualifications" with no employment outcomes.
"I don't blame them for that," she said. "But I believe they're targeting everything in that level 3, 4 area so that's your hospitality, your tourism, your healthcare assistants, your automotive qualifications."
The sector was of great benefit to the New Zealand economy and offered a great deal of further potential, particularly to regional New Zealand.
"It's really sad because New Zealand's the best in the world at vocational education and .... about 70 per cent of students come, learn, use their one-year work right and then go home again. And that's what we want."
Labour campaigned to limit the number of student visas for "low-value" courses by 6000 -10,000; remove post-study work visas without a job offer for lower level graduates, resulting in a fall of 9000 - 12,000 students; and to "regionalise the occupation list" to ensure that employers hired New Zealanders first, causing a fall of 5000 - 8000.