The University of Canterbury wants other universities to hold off enrolling its students.
The university's vice-chancellor Rod Carr says some students will genuinely not want to return to the city, but they need time to decide their future.
He says Canterbury will start classes progressively from 14 March and field trips using facilities outside Christchurch will be brought forward.
He hopes students who enrol at other universities will do so only temporarily.
The University of Adelaide has offered to enrol 500 Canterbury University students for the first half of the academic year.
Adelaide will teach the students for free, though they will already have paid their regular Canterbury university fees.
Special rates are being arranged for accommodation and flights.
Three New Zealand universities have offered to take international students from Canterbury for the first semester.
The students would transfer back to Canterbury in the second half of the year.