The first-of-its-kind initiative will focus on advocating for regulatory reform, increasing access to government grants and boosting offshore marketing.
The government aims to help providers develop offshore business models and promote a clearer “sector identity” under the Study New Zealand brand.
There is a clear focus on leveraging opportunities presented by vocational training too.
Plans to better engage the private sector come just ahead of new research unveiled this week that shows international education is worth NZ$2.6 billion to the national economy.
Traditionally English language programmes accounted for over half of all enrolments in this sector followed by business training courses. But recent declines in English language student numbers are giving way to a rise in vocational training for hospitality, engineering and information technology fields.
ENZ is looking to exploit the trend and take advantage of neighbouring Australia’s advancements in off-shore VET training to increase business opportunities in emerging markets. “Anecdotal information suggests that New Zealand’s success in vocational and applied education is inversely linked to Australia’s success,” it said.
Educators welcome the new-found support but say the “jury is still out” on the government’s proposals.
“The IEGF is the best opportunity for PTEs in years”
Tough immigration policy combined with the Christchurch earthquakes and high compliance costs have hit the industry hard.
First-time enrolments have plummeted to a third of 2008’s 15,598, down to 10,176 in 2012.
The sector is made up of a diverse mix of mostly small providers that are easily affected by fluctuations in regulation and that lack the scale to promote themselves internationally according to ENZ.
ENZ also plans to aid development in the sector and encourage more collaboration among providers by encouraging more PTEs to apply for marketing and project support through the International Education Growth Fund (IEGF).
“The IEGF is the best opportunity for PTEs in years,” said Chuck Wareham, Executive Director of the sector peak body, Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand (ITENZ). The IEGF can match the investment made by a PTE into diversifying or growing business.
Wareham said “offshore development is a good idea” but adds that providers are cautious about such ventures after a number of failed attempts.
“In addition the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) imposes strict regulations on such ventures and many providers do not have the time or budget to follow these regulations or take the risks associated with off shore delivery,” he said.
ENZ says it is prepared to advocate on behalf of the sector to “remove barriers that may impede business”
The engagement plan is a good sign of government support for private providers but Wareham says “the jury is still out” on ENZ’s plans to market abroad. Previously, the sector was “largely ignored” and educators were “very discontent” with the lack of government backing.
“Historically there has been little effort directed at promoting the PTE sector internationally, other than the sector’s efforts as individual institutions or through peak body activity,” he said. “Education New Zealand, before it was transformed into a Crown Entity in 2011, was primarily involved in promoting the state sector internationally.”
Educators say they have been thwarted by tight regulation around work rights, visa policy and the high cost of accreditation compliance with the New Zealand Qualification Authority.
ENZ says it is prepared to advocate on behalf of the sector to “remove barriers that may impede business, and encourage the development of pilot arrangements to test market and policy feasibility”.
There are over 600 PTEs, which are mostly English language providers and niche vocational trainers. They are responsible for nearly half of all international student intake into New Zealand.
Including English language schools, the economic value of the PTE sector amounts to NZ$1.14 billion, almost half of international education’s estimated NZ$2.3 billion contribution to GDP.