New Zealand surveys show mixed enrolment trends

November 04, 2013

A survey of the international education industry released by Education New Zealand has revealed mixed international student trends across the last twelve months but a more optimistic outlook among providers for the year ahead.

The 2013 Industry Survey, which received 524 responses across all sectors, revealed that 43 per cent of participating organisations had increased international student numbers over the previous 12 months, 25 per cent experienced a stable year and 32 per cent suffered a decline – with 18 per cent registering a decrease of 10 per cent of more.

However, the outlook for the next year was slightly more optimistic, with 56 per cent anticipating an increase, 30 per cent expecting no change and 16 per cent predicting a decrease.

In terms of growth markets, China was most commonly cited as the country that had shown the greatest percentage increase over the last year – by 35 per cent of organisations, followed by Japan (11 per cent) and South Korea (8), although the latter was actually the most declining market at 35 per cent.

Education New Zealand released individual surveys for each sector, and the English language provider report echoed many of the findings of Study Travel Magazine’s Status Survey New Zealand 2012, with Japan as the top source market in both.

Darren Conway, Chief Executive of English New Zealand, said schools were reacting with relief to a levelling off of the Japanese market after a few years of decline. “That is good news for what is still a critical market globally: the Japanese language market has not greyed, it’s just been waiting for a more affordable travel environment.”

Meanwhile, Thailand emerged as a significant growth market for English language providers, with 19 per cent citing Thai students as the greatest percentage increase over the last year.

A flat trend in tuition fees was a noticeable aspect of the survey, with 62.1 per cent of all providers recording no price increase so far in 2013; only in the university sector did all institutions increase prices. A similar trend was observed in the STM survey, in which the average cost of a one-month English language course was NZ$1,381 (US$1,146), virtually identical to the previous year.

The stable tuition fees were most likely a response to the high New Zealand dollar, which was cited as the second largest barrier to growth overall by 13.4 per cent of respondents (behind limited resources for marketing), and the largest by English language providers by 22.9 per cent. Conway said the English language sector was more price sensitive than longer-term markets that filter out some short-term stimuli. “The core language travel market is still as much a travel market as a language market, and they [students] are making shorter-term and shorter-notice decisions.”

Some of the survey questions related to Education New Zealand’s activities, and inbound tours/agent visits (11.6 per cent) and support to contact agents (11.1 per cent) were among the top responses for most beneficial activities.

Looking ahead, Conway said that the survey among English language providers was moderately optimistic, with only 30 per cent anticipating a decline in the next 12 months, and said there was a sense the sector has bottomed out. Furthermore, the recent announcement of extended work rights for English language students on courses of 14 weeks or more would enhance this view, he said.

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