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New Zealand’s regional education export gains exceed NZ$270m

The University of Otago. Of New Zealand's eight regions, Otago provided the lion’s share of economic impact and the largest employment numbers. Photo: Nathan Hughes Hamilton

“New Zealand’s regions have great capacity to grow both enrolment numbers and value from international education”

The reports detail the 2015/16 economic impact of the international education industry on eight of New Zealand’s regions outside of Auckland, which attracts 60% of the country’s international students.

They found the international education industry directly supports or creates one job for every eight international students in the regions of Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson-Marlborough-Tasman, Otago and Southland regions, accounting for a combined 16% of the industry’s total economic impact in New Zealand.

Employment figures and economic contribution further improve to almost 3,800 jobs and $406.7m when incorporating indirect goods and services consumed by students, such as food and drink, textbooks and communications services.

“These new reports show the wider economic benefits of international education in regional communities”

“Job creation is vital for the economic and social success of our regions, and these new reports show the wider economic benefits of international education in regional communities,” Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith told The PIE News.

“International education is now worth $4.28bn to the New Zealand economy and is our fourth largest export industry, so it’s important that our regions are a part of that growth story.”

John Goulter, ENZ general manager stakeholder and communications, said the reports “demonstrate that the benefits of enrolling one student are shared widely within regional communities, not just within education providers”.

Goulter said ENZ, which established the Regional Partnership Programme last year to help grow student numbers in 15 regional areas around New Zealand, is committed to sustainable growth and that the industry is “uniquely placed to add real value in the regions”.

“We can see that international education is having an increasingly positive impact on business sustainability, employment and other outcomes such as social and cultural diversity,” he said.

As well as highlighting the economic impact of international education, Goulter told The PIE News the reports will help to measure the success of the RPP and inform future government investment.

Despite Auckland’s current dominance in attracting international students, Goulter said regional growth would play a significant role in sustainably growing the industry and the reports provided a grounding to better understand what could be achieved beyond the city.

Of the eight regions, Otago provided the lion’s share of economic impact and the largest employment numbers, with $142m and 1,307 jobs when including both direct and indirect factors. The next largest region was the Bay of Plenty, with $86m and 816 jobs.

Comparatively, however, the figures are significantly smaller than Auckland, which netted $2.17bn and 16,000 jobs – half of international education’s economic and jobs contribution for the entirety of New Zealand – during the same period.

International education’s contribution to the GDP of each region also lagged significantly behind the national contribution of 1.7%, with all regions except Otago seeing contributions under 1%.

Only Otago’s Dunedin city managed to surpass the national average, seeing international education contribute 2% to its GDP.

Goulter said the differences in economic impact, jobs numbers and GDP contributions exemplify the potential for growth beyond Auckland: “New Zealand’s regions have great capacity to grow both enrolment numbers and value from international education.”

ENZ has dedicated significant resources on building the education exports from the county’s regions lately, including an online portal promoting the regions, the RPP and a new international education strategy with increased focus on regional areas.

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