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New Zealand: numbers and value decline, public support high

The number of international students enrolled within New Zealand institutions has continued to slide as the country rebalances and focuses on “quality over quantity”, while a new study found community perceptions of the sector remained positive.

A focus on quality has pushed New Zealand’s international enrolments down. Photo: PexelsA focus on quality has pushed New Zealand’s international enrolments down. Photo: Pexels

Both universities and schools increased by 6% and 7% respectively

According to the latest figures from Education New Zealand, the country enrolled just over 117,000 international students in 2018, a 6% decline from the previous year and the second consecutive drop in numbers after a 5% loss in 2017.

“More Kiwis are seeing the benefits that international education brings”

Unlike 2017’s losses, however, the decline in enrolments also contributed to New Zealand’s first loss of economic impact, dropping $200 million to $4.9 billion and pushing the industry from fourth to fifth largest in the country.

“Our focus on quality over quantity will ensure that the growth is sustainable – something that’s crucial to future-proofing the sector,” education minister Chris Hipkins said.

“I’m really pleased to see that more and more high-value international students are choosing New Zealand as their study destination.”

While overall enrolments and economic impact declined, both universities and schools increased by 6% and 7% respectively, with the majority of the losses attributed to the Private Training Establishments sector.

“This is the first time in the last six years that the university sector has become the largest sector for international students,” Hipkins said, continuing that good progress had been made removing low-quality providers and non-genuine students.

Since 2016, increased scrutiny on the PTE sector by the government and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has seen 16 involuntary provider closures, while 2018’s national strategy outlined building diversity and focussing on the quality of student.

By country, the largest decline came from India, losing both market share and overall numbers to represent 14% of market (down from 16% in 2017) and around 16,500 total enrolments (from over 20,000 in 2017.

Despite market share remaining firm for the other top four markets of China (32%), Japan (8%) and Korea (5%), student numbers also dropped by more than a combined 5,000.

“Our focus on quality over quantity will ensure that the growth is sustainable”

While the figures show New Zealand’s International education sector continuing to rebalance, the latest community perceptions show the domestic population’s perceptions of industry remain largely positive overall.

According to the New Zealanders’ Perceptions of International Education report, which surveyed 1,0001 respondents, 58% of people believe International students contribute nationally and 51% regionally.

“We often talk about the benefits of international education in terms of economic, social and cultural benefits for New Zealand and New Zealanders,” ENZ chief executive Grant McPherson said.

“For me, international education is much more than that – it’s personal.

“International education is about nourishing and enriching the young manuhiri in our care as they live and study among us, far from home.”

The 2019 results also saw perceptions improving over time, with higher proportions of respondents indicating they agreed international students make significant cultural, economic and networking contributions.

Both economic and networking opportunities saw the biggest improvements in perceptions, growing by 9% and 8% respectively since 2017. Only perceptions of the benefits to tourism failed to increase from the previous year, remaining at 73%.

“I’m really pleased to see that more and more high value international students are choosing New Zealand”

“More Kiwis are seeing the benefits that international education brings at both a national and regional level,” Hipkins said.

“International students not only provide huge economic benefits but give New Zealanders an opportunity to make connections with people from all over the world, and learn about their culture.”

Conversely, concerns over the perceived barriers of international education declined, with fewer respondents indicating they thought foreign students negatively influenced housing, jobs, medical services, culture and the ability for locals to learn.

While the study, conducted by research and insights company Kantar, primarily focussed on the perceptions of New Zealanders’ on inbound students, the report also found 56% believed outbound experiences provided a net benefit.

New Zealand’s international education industry has focussed heavily on reform in recent years, and the 2019 New Zealand International Education Conference saw calls to recontextualise the meaning of overseas education.

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