“While economic contribution is one positive aspect of international education, it also brings a range of social and cultural benefits”
Released in October, the latest figure is a 19% improvement from the last economic valuation in 2015/16, a total gain of $820 million, and sees policies to boost the economic benefits in regional areas bearing fruit.
“The research highlights how important the international education sector is to New Zealand not only nationally but also regionally,” education minister Chris Hipkins said.
“Auckland has seen a drop in the total number of visiting students over the last year – largely due to continued efforts by government to lift overall quality – however, the economic value of the sector remained strong.”
Of note, Auckland, which two years ago represented 66% of total revenue, dropped to 57.5% of the market, as Wellington, Canterbury and Otago, along with other regions, strengthened. A standout, Taranaki almost trebled its value while Northland surpassed its target of $30 million, a year after setting it.
The new statistics also show the number of jobs supported by international education grew by more than 15,000 to reach 47,490.
“While economic contribution is one positive aspect of international education, it also brings a range of social and cultural benefits,” said ENZ chief executive Grant McPherson.
“This is reflected in the International Education Strategy, which sets out a path for the future of New Zealand’s international education sector focussed on offering an excellent student experience and building a sustainable sector that provides benefits for all New Zealanders.”
At a sector level, economic contribution did not reflect changes to New Zealand’s international student cohort highlighted by ENZ in July, as all sectors, excluding private training establishments, increased in value.
Universities remained the most significant economic contributor, representing $1.4 billion and increasing its proportion of the entire market to 28%.
“Universities are building a strong brand and continue to raise their reputation as a collective of world-leading universities where all are ranked in the top 3% worldwide,” Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan told The PIE News.
“The universities market themselves as innovative, future focused and globally relevant with a strong focus on the high quality of their education offering.”
English Language providers and institutes of technology and polytechnics, meanwhile, strengthened to overtake secondary schools and relegate it to fifth.
“In these impact reports we are distinguished and it is again confirmed that we punch way above our weight,” explained Darren Conway, managing director Languages International, on the improved showing of ELS.
“ELS wants to be distinguished as a sector as our counterparts are in Australia, so that distinctive characteristics of our delivery can be recognised and accommodated in regulations, so that we can get the equivalent of ELICOS visas [and] we get clear statistics and so that our economic and wider value is recognised.”
Whether the economic growth continues remains to be seen, however, with New Zealand preferencing quality over quantity of students, a point reflected in its recent national strategy, which omitted a student number target.
“The focus has shifted away from volume and growing the number of students in New Zealand, toward offering an exemplary student experience and building a sector that provides benefits for all New Zealanders,” Hipkins reiterated.
The latest economic valuation see’s New Zealand’s international education industry surpass its previous target of $5 billion seven years ahead of schedule. The 2011 Leadership Statement target was subsequently increased to $6 billion by 2025 in the recently released national strategy.