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Growth in NZ tertiary enrolments halted by private sector

A snapshot of New Zealand’s international education sector from January to April of this year shows overall enrolments declined by 3% due to a significant 10% drop in private training establishment (PTE) numbers.

Masters enrolments were up by 22%, and PhDs up by 6% in the university sector

The high value of the New Zealand dollar, increased investment in domestic education in key source markets and competition from top English speaking destinations continue to afflict the industry which has seen numbers dwindle over the last decade to 56,238 compared to 2004’s 72,013.

Using the Export Education Levy, Single Data Return, visa and tourism statistics, the report provides a sector outlook for the year. Despite the decline, increased enrolments in higher levels of study has given the government confidence that downward trends may be shifting.

“More generally we are seeing a move towards higher levels of study and longer periods of study in New Zealand”

“While overall enrolment numbers are down slightly, our international education sector is continuing to perform well, with the TEC [Tertiary Education Commission] reporting a further $25 million increase in international fees at tertiary institutions to $404 million in the year to June,” said Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce.

“More generally we are seeing a move towards higher levels of study and longer periods of study in New Zealand, and that is positive for our brand.”

Masters enrolments were up by 22%, and PhDs up by 6% in the university sector. Enrolments from the country’s strongest source market, China, also showed signs of improvement following year-on-year growth trends to increase overall by 5%.

To date Chinese students account for 30% of enrolments for the year followed by India, Japan and Korea.

However, the decline in PTE enrolments to 2010 levels off-set growth in higher level courses. The decrease was seen most in Auckland’s PTE sector that accounts for 75% of national enrolments.

Still recovering from the 2011 earthquakes, Canterbury’s numbers continue to fall but the decrease appears to be easing. Enrolments dropped by 2% to 4,472, compared to 2010’s 8,971.

“While overall international student numbers in Canterbury continue to be affected by the aftermath of the earthquakes, the rate of decline is slowing. This is positive for the region and I have confidence that the enrolment numbers will increase as Canterbury tertiary education providers get back on their feet,” Joyce said.

With international education contributing an estimated NZ$2 billion to the economy, the government is keen to maintain the industry and has taken measures to attract students including a study work website, online visa processing and work rights for English students in Christchurch.

The decrease was seen most in Auckland’s PTE sector that accounts for 75% of national enrolments

This year’s budget allocated NZ$40 million over the next four years to international education initiatives and ministers went on trade missions targeting key partners including China, Malaysia, Colombia, Brazil and Poland to promote the country as a study destination.

Amid efforts to boost numbers, the immigration policy requiring student graduates to be managers before they can be considered for residency came under criticism last week after a researcher revealed non-existent senior positions jobs were being sold to migrant workers.

Critics at Auckland University of Technology called the expected labour market entrance level “unrealistic” resulting in many students becoming “victims of of exploitation”.

Immigration New Zealand rejected the claims saying the graduate job work scheme giving students up to 12 months to find a job and apply for a further visa was in place to ensure migrants made the “maximum economic contribution” to the country.

“The purpose … is for students to gain work experience that may enable them to obtain the skilled job and thereby qualify for residence,” said agency spokesman Marc Piercey.

“It is our view that the policy is not flawed. New Zealand rightly selects only the best and most skilled people for residence.”

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