Overseas students down in NZ in 2013

13 June, 2014

The number of international students in New Zealand declined again in 2013, according to full-year data published by Education New Zealand this week, but increases in the second half of the year offer signs of encouragement for the sector.

Photo: Top three increases & decreases by source country. Source: Education New Zealand, International education snapshot: 2013 full year report

The New Zealand International Education Snapshot reports there were 97,283 international students in New Zealand in 2013, a decline of 1.8 per cent compared with the previous year and the fourth consecutive year of decline.

However, the declines were concentrated in the first four months of the year; the May-to-August and September-to-December trimesters saw increases of four and two per cent respectively, compared with the same periods in 2012.

There were further positive signs in the university sector, which has grown consistently over the last five years and increased four per cent compared with 2012. Within this, there was strong growth at postgraduate level, with a 17 per cent rise in Master’s-level enrolments and nine per cent growth at PhD level. China provided an additional 1,165 students within the university sector last year.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister, Steven Joyce, welcomed the data, and said, “The second half of 2013 – and early indications from 2014 – showed good signs of lift in international student numbers, particularly at higher levels.”

The English language sector suffered a decline of nine per cent across the whole year, and the 16,429 students in 2013 were well below the 24,753 recorded in 2009. This sector also had a higher proportion of students concentrated in Auckland (76 per cent) than any other education segment.

However, the ENZ report reveals the heavy losses for English providers were concentrated in the first four months of the year, while from May-to-December there was 11 per cent growth compared with 2012. The report noted that the increase coincided with the announcement of enhanced work rights country-wide for language students.  

In other areas of international education: the school sector had a slight international student increase of one per cent; the institutes of technology and polytechnic (ITP) sector declined by one per cent; and the private training establishment (PTE) sector (excluding language schools) fell by four per cent, although it recorded growth in the third trimester of 2013.

In terms of individual markets across all sectors, there was growth from Japan (seven per cent), China (two per cent) and India (three per cent).

Korea represented the largest decline, down 15 per cent (1,422 students) compared with 2012. The drop from Korea equated to 80 per cent of the total student decrease, said ENZ in the report. The analysis section of the document attributed this to demographical changes within Korea itself and a drive by the Korean government to expand domestic delivery of English language provision.

However, the report states that student visas issues to Korean students in the first quarter of 2014 increased by 11 per cent compared with the same period last year, and that current negotiations over formal Korean government recognition of New Zealand qualifications would help to promote the country as a study destination.

Despite the fall in student numbers in 2013, tuition fee income from international students increased by 1.3 per cent – around NZ$9.5 million (US$8.2 million) – to a total of NZ$755 million (US$653 million), possibly reflecting the increases on longer-term academic courses.

Looking ahead, Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, said increasing student visa approvals were signposting a recovery in 2014: “Total approved student visas, which are available before enrolment data, were up 22 percent in the January-to-March 2014 period on 2013, bringing total student visas back up to 2010 levels.”

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