Detailing the number of student visas granted and declined for offshore applicants during the 2016 academic year, the statistics show 11,000 fewer applications than 2015, down from 61,500 to 50,200. The decrease in turn resulted in 37,600 visas granted, a decline of 5,700 from 2015.
India, which saw significant growth in 2015, accounted for the majority of the 2016 losses, with 9,500 fewer applications (total applications made in 2016: 16,380) and 5,200 fewer visas granted (total visa’s granted in 2016: 7,562) than in the previous year.
“The decline reflects a range of factors including greater scrutiny of student visa applications by INZ”
“The decline in  student visas from India reflects a range of factors, including the change to Rule 18 (English language requirements for international students), and greater scrutiny of student visa applications by INZ,” a spokesperson for Education New Zealand and INZ told The PIE News.
Rule 18 previously allowed students to obtain a visa by showing evidence of instruction in English, rather than a formal test such as IELTS.
ENZ and INZ said while applications and grants were down when compared to the previous three years, the total number of student visas had continued to grow in line with expectations and the figures represented an anomaly.
“INZ received a surge in applications in 2015 from applicants who would have been affected by the change to Rule 18 in October 2015. This has somewhat distorted the application volumes as people that usually would apply in the first few months of 2016 applied before the rule change,” the spokesperson said.
The Philippines, which was also affected by changes to Rule 18, had the second largest drop after India, with 1,300 fewer applications (total applications in 2016: 1,677) and 1,100 fewer grants (total grants in 2016: 1,204), compared to the previous year.
Still, when numbers from India and the Philippines are removed from total figures, growth was weak throughout 2016, with a gain of just 591 visas granted.
Approval rates for both countries also continued to slide despite measures to counter it, however, overall rates improved from 70% to 75%.
Rachel Honeycombe, board member of private training establishment peak body, ITENZ, said her members had been mindful of upcoming changes and took “taken precautionary measures to ensure that the significant drop from India did not impact too much on their overall student numbers.
“Members are focusing on diversifying into new and emerging markets and are also working closely with INZ Mumbai to ensure clear communications and strategies are in place for processing enrolments from the Indian Sub-Continent,” she added.
Chris Whelan, executive director of Universities New Zealand, said universities had not experienced significant reductions in the number of visas granted to Indian students.
“Indian students are attracted to this country because of the quality of the education. We don’t see that changing”
“Eighty-three per cent of Indian students currently studying at New Zealand universities are doing so at postgraduate level,” he told The PIE News.
“They are attracted to this country because of the quality of the education. We don’t see that changing and so expect the numbers of Indian students at New Zealand universities to continue to grow.”
While he said there was an expectation for growth, he said universities like other sectors were aware of becoming too reliant on China and India as a source of international students.
“There is a need to diversify. This is not just for the benefit of international education as an industry, but also for the students. We want them to develop international networks and to be confident in working across cultures,” he said.
English New Zealand executive director Kim Renner said members had similarly not experienced declines in the total number of students choosing an ELT provider.
“It obviously depends on the quality of applications, but some of the markets with significant declines, are not ELT markets,” she said, adding “many [ELT] students are on visitor visas for short term study, or working holiday visas,” rather than a student visa.
ENZ is currently developing a new international education strategy to see the country’s industry continue to grow and remain sustainable. It is expected to be released later this year.