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NZ industry “rebalances” as enrolments drop and value holds

The total number of international enrolments into New Zealand institutions has dipped, according to the latest stats from Education New Zealand. But while there were fewer enrolments, the economic impact remained steady.

While Japan saw an overall decline in enrolments, the country contributed to the schools sector's gains. Photo: ENZWhile Japan saw an overall decline in enrolments, the country contributed to the schools sector's gains. Photo: ENZ

Despite the drop in total enrolments, tuition fee revenue increased 2% to NZ$1.1bn

In 2017, New Zealand’s international enrolments shrank by 5% to 125,392, marking the first overall decline in the industry since 2013, but rather than being a cause for concern, it has been labelled a “rebalance” of the country’s industry.

“The rebalancing reflects a determination to achieve sustainable growth of a high-value and high-quality international education sector… over the long term,” ENZ acting chief executive and communications manager John Goulter told The PIE News.

“Growth at postgraduate level will also help offset this decrease”

“In New Zealand, there is growing emphasis on attracting quality international students to high-quality courses.”

The schools sector grew by 9% along with the universities sector, which grew 7%. But Auckland, which hosts the lion’s share of international students in New Zealand, saw a decline in numbers despite most other regions growing.

But the private training establishments sector, which has been in the sights of the government after several provider closures and ongoing concerns that students were enrolling to gain access to work rights, suffered heavy losses of 17% and 26% in funded and unfunded places respectively. At least 9,300 enrolments were lost in total.

Institutes of technology and polytechnics, and ELS providers also saw declines of 1% and 2% respectively.

Despite the drop in total enrolments, tuition fee revenue increased by 2% to NZ$1.1bn, and overall economic impact remained steady at around NZ$4.5bn.

“The overall decrease is offset by a number of factors – increases in universities, secondary schools, primary schools and intermediate schools,” Goulter explained, pointing out that education levels with longer periods of study and therefore longer time in country to consume and spend grew, while levels with short study periods declined.

“The overall enrolment growth at postgraduate level will also help offset this decrease. Since 2013, the number of postgraduate international students has grown consistently, with 63% more postgraduate international students in 2017 than in 2013.”

“There is growing emphasis on attracting quality international students to high-quality courses”

Rebalancing also appears to have occurred in the nationality makeup of sectors.

China strengthened its position as the leading nationality for New Zealand’s international students, but India saw a heavy 28% loss. This mainly affected the PTE sector, which traditionally relies on the Indian market.

Despite a relatively small 1% decline in overall numbers, Japan helped to push numbers up for the schools sector, which continued its gains from 2016.

“Japan is strong at the moment leading up to the Rugby World Cup and Olympics, and so New Zealand schools are reporting good enrolments,” said John van der Zwan, executive director of Schools International Education Business Association.

“Generally though, the school sector is quite stable and less impacted by speculation on changes to visa settings and other immigration drivers that impact other sectors.”

Kim Renner, executive director of English New Zealand, meanwhile, observed while there was a dip in the ELS sector, many providers also experienced substantial gains.

“Collectively English NZ members experienced an 8% increase in student numbers”

“The figures released are for unfunded international providers including English language specialists and those offering English and other courses,” Kim Renner said, adding that figures did not include students in other providers also receiving English tuition.

“Only 19 of our members are included in these statistics, but collectively they experienced an 8% increase in student numbers, 5% increase in full-time equivalent weeks and a 3% increase in tuition fee revenue.”

New Zealand is currently developing a new international education strategy which is expected to be released later this year, after completing its consultation period.

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