New Zealand First is claiming student visas are being promoted as an easy way of gaining New Zealand residency.
The number of international students rose by 12 percent to 93,000 in the first eight months of last year, with a big surge in the number of Indian students.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters told Morning Report it was wrong to call that export education because the domestic economy was paying for maintaining overseas students.
"Why aren't we putting our own students first? Why aren't we ensuring that they can get jobs in the holidays so they can pay for their education first? Why aren't we ensuring that they get positioned in the economy, employed in the economy after they graduate first?"
However, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told the programme the government's analysis shows there is increased economic activity because of international students.
"The analysis that immigration did before we made the changes suggested there was a net positive to New Zealand because the increase in economic activity here, and the increased jobs, outweighed any loss of jobs to people who were studying here."
Mr Joyce said export education contributed $2.85 billion to the economy and every three overseas students were responsible for the creation of one extra New Zealand job.