Canterbury University students on exchanges at overseas universities have been told to come home immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic.

AUT University has also suspended all overseas study programmes planned for the second half of this year, but no other university except Canterbury has told those who are already overseas to come home yet.

Many overseas universities are also recalling exchange students from NZ universities, including 160 at the University of Auckland.

The Ministry of Education has advised all universities that "large public lectures and community events, and large graduation ceremonies, should be cancelled".


All are still considering what to do about their graduation ceremonies which are due in April and May, but many have cancelled events including Auckland University's Distinguished Alumni Awards which had been planned for this Friday.

University and Tertiary Sports NZ director Sarah Anderson said all national university sports events are also likely to be cancelled. An announcement will be made on Wednesday morning in conjunction with national sporting organisations.

The University of Canterbury said: "Given the rapidly escalating global situation and the increasing amount of travel restrictions worldwide, and intensive consultation with our partners, it is with great regret that UC has made the very difficult decision to suspend our exchange programmes and recall all UC outbound exchange students, effective immediately."

A spokeswoman said 59 students would be helped to return home quickly and "a small number" of others who were due to depart soon would now stay at home.

"A number of Study Abroad programmes have been cancelled by their overseas institutions, and numerous Study Abroad and exchange students at UC have been recalled to their home universities," she said.

AUT University said it "has reached out to AUT students currently on overseas programmes to discuss their options".

Auckland University communications manager Lisa Finucane said Auckland had not recalled its 148 students who are on overseas exchanges, but is "providing options for them to come back or stay away".

However it has recalled 70 medical students from overseas, and Finucane said overseas universities have recalled 160 of their students from Auckland.


Otago University also said that a number of overseas universities were recalling their exchange students, but some of the students "feel safer here than in their home countries".

Professor Harlene Hayne: University will provide accommodation on a case by case basis to returning students who need to be isolated for 14 days. Photo / File
Professor Harlene Hayne: University will provide accommodation on a case by case basis to returning students who need to be isolated for 14 days. Photo / File

Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne said that if students returning from overseas cannot isolate at their homes, the university "is equipped to provide them with accommodation on a case by case basis".

Emergency and business continuity co-ordinator Andrew Ferguson said the university had only one lecture theatre with more than 500 seats, the St David Lecture Theatre, and some seats were now being removed to reduce its capacity to 500 after the Government banned gatherings of more than 500 people.

Coronavirus: Gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled - Ardern
Coronavirus - what you need to know: Latest updates and essential information
Coronavirus: We can enforce self-isolation, Jacinda Ardern says
Coronavirus: Are these the last people in the world to be told about the pandemic?

The university has also banned visitors and overnight guests from residential halls.