The International Education Benchmark for New Zealand report, which surveyed 1,781 undergraduate and postgraduate respondents, found on average, education agents recruited 38.7% of universities’ international student populations.
“Agents are a key recruitment channel for New Zealand universities across multiple markets as they are one of the most significant influencers when students are deciding where to study,” said executive director of Universities New Zealand Chris Whelan.
“Our universities work hard to build relationships with agents that are high-quality and high performing.”
While education agents played a significant role in New Zealand higher education, Studymove’s managing director Keri Ramirez said the results of the survey showed opportunities for further engagement.
“38% may be seen high but… Australian Universities received close to 75% of their students via agents,” he said, referring to a 2016 report by the Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum.
“Increased outbound mobility is an important part of university life, and part of the government’s international education policy”
“There are still good opportunities to engage more with education agents and effectively increase the number of international students studying in New Zealand,” Ramirez continued.
The report argued that the overall operational costs of using education agents were relatively small, coming to only 3.7% of total tuition revenue generated by all international students on campus.
“From a financial point of view, education agents are quite an effective recruitment channel,” Ramirez told The PIE News.
As well as looking at agent usage, the report found that universities increased revenue by 7.9%, to hit $371.3m in 2016, off the back of a 10.3% increase in enrolments.
China remained as New Zealand’s top source market for students, representing over a third of all international students at universities.
“China is the top market for New Zealand universities representing 36% of the total commencing international students,” Ramirez said.
“This figure is very similar to 38% reported by the Australian Government and 32% by Open Doors in 2016,” he continued, adding that smaller markets, such as Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia represented some of New Zealand’s most significant areas for further growth.
Outbound mobility of New Zealand students also saw marked increases in 2016, growing 12.7% to 2,874.
“38% may be seen high but… Australian Universities received close to 75% of their students via agents”
Interestingly, while the number of domestic university students going abroad increased, participation rates decreased to 4.3%, with undergraduate students reporting the largest drop, from 8.5% to 6.1%.
“Increased outbound mobility is an important part of university life, and part of the government’s international education policy,” Whelan said.
“However, there are many factors which students take into account when deciding whether to study abroad. Some of these include language barriers, financial issues, a lack of recognition for study done abroad, prolonging their degree, and a general uncertainty about opportunities to study abroad.”
Whelan told The PIE that universities were aware of the barriers and were currently reviewing ways in which to reduce them an increased study abroad among New Zealand students.
A new strategy for international education is currently underway in New Zealand, after a draft and consultation period last year.