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Tere McGonagle-Daly, Massey University, NZ

Massey University in New Zealand has launched a partnership with pathway provider Kaplan International. The institution’s deputy vice-chancellor, Students and Global Engagement, Tere McGonagle-Daly spoke to the PIE about the discussions that began in 2018, the MOU signed in 2020 and how the partners have developed the new pre-university pathway.


"How do we have a partnership that is going to complement us and ultimately support our students towards being as successful as they can be?"

The PIE: Tell us about the new collaboration between Massey University and Kaplan to establish a pathway program.

Tere McGonagle-Daly: The discussions with Kaplan really began with my predecessor in about 2018, and I took the reins effectively August last year. Here in New Zealand, we don’t really focus on a lot of these sort of partnerships in the way that you might in other countries around the world.

But the whole proposition around working in partnership with an organisation like Kaplan, is this is an area of expertise that they have and that they excel in – so instead of trying to “build my own”,  it’s about trying to put the student first and saying, if this is going to be better for the student, why wouldn’t we explore it in that direction?

“[This partnership] is about recognising that we don’t have to always do it ourselves”

I’m in the process of completing my doctorate specifically around how internationalisation strategy impacts universities, and the influence of marketing expertise, and I think [this partnership] is about recognising that we don’t have to always do it ourselves.

A lot of our conversations around partnerships [in Massey] – as a multi-campus university – is about establishing a solid base on our Auckland Campus, letting it grow and then expanding that out across our other two campuses [in Palmerston North and Wellington].

Our starting point really came from how do we have a partnership with an organisation that is going to complement us and ultimately support our students towards being as successful as they can be.

The PIE: What does this partnership actually cover?

T M-D: In July last year, we signed an MOU [where] we basically put everything on the table and we explored it all. We have now come to a full agreement around how we are delivering English language provision and university entry – so the foundation provision is kind of the first cab off the rank.

The second part of it is looking at the pre master’s – the pathway into the postgraduate programs, which is a first for a New Zealand university.

The third progression is around a degree transfer program, which is effectively an international year one, and that will have the wraparound service where you start to get things like careers advice, academic advice etc while you study in the first year.

In addition, we’re already exploring opportunities around direct recruitment, accessing [Kaplan’s] regional offices, where we will train each of those offices in what we do and how we do it. Part of that’s also going to be about them supporting our agents on the ground and helping to advise [students] before they even hit my admissions team.

“Our aim is to work with agents so that actual student prospects are getting really good information, advice and guidance right at the get go”

Typically speaking, we probably have around between 15,000-20,000 international applications a year. Probably less than 9% of them will enrol and it’s probably about double that that actually gets fully considered.

Our aim is to work with agents so that actual student prospects are getting really good information, advice and guidance right at the get go. [We want to] reduce the number of applications that are coming through to university to hopefully heighten the quality, but also the likelihood of success.

The PIE: How long is this partnership lasting for?

T M-D: At the moment, the first agreement’s been signed for five years and we’ll look at the performance of it annually. Actually one of our big tasks that Kaplan is supporting is around diversification. We don’t want all of our eggs in one basket, which is typically what New Zealand and Australia do.

In the Australian sector, almost two thirds of the market are either China or India. For Massey, we do have a large China base, but India is not even in our top 10, which is unusual. We’re trying to work with Kaplan on this as well. We still want to maintain our China market, but actually we’re looking at Southeast Asia, North Asia, other parts of the Middle East. We want to make sure we’re not too focused on just one single market.

The PIE: When planning with Kaplan, did you suggest specific markets or give them targets for certain places?

T M-D: If it’s a genuine partnership, it has to be a dialogue in both directions. If I’m setting targets for them, then it’s really just as a supplier. So I think this has to work two ways.

“If an agent based in Ho Chi Minh decides that they need support, we can tap into the regional office that Kaplan have there”

We’ve set up a strategy board in the governance structure which the managing director for Kaplan ANZ and I chair, and really what we’re looking at is where the key initiatives that we should be looking at are, what the market is telling us and how we make sure we can deliver that.

But at the same time, we’re also recognising how we can enhance [the partnership] even more. The marketing group – probably a little bit more recruitment oriented – is dovetailing into my own recruitment team. We’re not saying that Kaplan is going to just go off and do it all by themselves. Especially in the current environment where we can’t travel, we’re trying to make sure that if an agent based in Ho Chi Minh decides that they need support, we can tap into the regional office that Kaplan have there and say, ‘do you mind popping in?’ It’s about how we do that in a really symbiotic way to offer real benefit to our agent network and ultimately the student.

But going back to your earlier point around targets, especially in this first year, we’re sitting down with Kaplan and talk to their regional offices and find out what is happening on the ground, who’s doing what, where are the areas that we should be recruiting more from.

Also given the context and dare I say, being a little bit competitive, New Zealand is really well regarded right now, so how do we leverage that?

The PIE: In comparison with other partnerships that you’ve worked on, how is this one different to pre-covid ones? 

T M-D: I can probably respond to that one in a couple of ways.

Some pathway providers are very commercial, so your conversation around targets is exactly what they would want to have, because that’s what they went out to deliver. The conversation with Kaplan so far has much more been around how we provide students with the best experience.

Every single person we recruit, we are wanting them to be successful and progress through the route that they want to progress into.

For Massey, this is our kick-off point for lots of other types of partnership works as well. You know, TNE is not common in New Zealand and we’ve already started to explore what TNE provision would look like for us – both as a physical presence offshore as well as a slightly less traditional blended TNE profession because of our online work. And so I think in terms of partnership, hopefully this is a catalyst for us to be looking at more partnerships around the world.

The PIE: In terms of your overall online students, how many are currently studying with you overseas?

T M-D: The total student population in the university is around 30,000 – half of them are online.

“We’ve launched two learning centres, one of them in Nanjing, the other in Hainan”

Massey is New Zealand’s largest online provider, but also the second largest recruiter of internationals in the country, [although] Covid and borders being shut is affecting that, obviously. Over the last 12 months, it’s probably been around about 1,000 students that would have been in New Zealand if the borders were not shut.

We do have larger student numbers based in China, so this year we’ve launched two learning centres, one of them in Nanjing, the other in Hainan, and both with about 120 of our Chinese students. Nanjing as an example, we have two course areas there, so one’s creative arts, which is a group of 20, and the other one is our business students, which is a group of about 100. They’re having a university experience, but not physically here in New Zealand.

On the opposite side, we do some TNE provision. In Singapore, we have 180 students studying in food technology [through] our curriculum that we’ve franchised out. So in total then, it’s probably around 1,500 students that are still studying with us that are offshore, that are international. But we probably also have another 1,000 of those students studying abroad that are New Zealanders because they happen to live overseas, but they want to study a New Zealand degree.

Last year, a lot of our students obviously had to move online, and yet they had the best year in terms of the results in amongst everything else they were dealing with in response to Covid. But this is the thing that I think universities need to respond to more.

We are a fairly traditional sector and we need to be a bit more innovative in terms of our approach. So one of the things that Massey is now exploring more is, how do we build up blended learning in everything we do? Why do students have to choose to be in a classroom or do it online? Why can’t you choose both and then do whatever one suits you on the day?

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