Overseas students increase in New Zealand

22, January, 2015

The number of international students in New Zealand increased by 12 per cent in the January-to-August 2014 period, reversing two years of declines, according to data released by Education New Zealand (Ed NZ) this week.

Top four increases and decreases by source country in New Zealand, January-to-August 2014. Source: Education New Zealand, International Education Snapshot, 2014 January-August Report

The 12 per cent rise represented an additional 10,093 students compared with the January-to-August period in 2013, leading to a total of 93,137 international students, surpassing the 88,409 students recorded in the same period of 2011 – the year of the Christchurch earthquake.

Growth was strongest in the private training establishments (PTEs) and institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) sectors: PTEs (excluding English language schools) recorded a 33 per cent increase, driven by an additional 5,118 students from India; ITPs experienced 16 per cent growth after four relatively flat years, with large increases from China (21 per cent) and India (30 per cent).

In other sectors, the universities registered four per cent growth, the secondary school segment rose by one per cent and the English language sector recorded a six per cent increase.  

Darren Conway, Chairman of language school association English New Zealand, said, “Last year saw a definite return to growth, which had already started by the end of 2013. Six per cent growth in ELT was also just in individual students – both weeks (+16 per cent) and tuition fees (+12 per cent) grew more.”

He added that the Education New Zealand data doesn’t capture all of the growth in ELT as it refers only to specialist language schools – hybrid business/language schools and state university language schools are captured elsewhere. “So ELT accounts for a lot more of the growth and economic contribution than is suggested by Ed NZ’s report,” said Conway.

Explaining the reasons for the growth, Conway said, “It’s partly a ‘natural’ swing back, given that 2013 was the worst year in more than a decade, but work rights were certainly critical as for most of last year we continued to battle an historically unfavourable exchange rate.” More favourable work rights were announced in 2013.

Thailand was a particularly prominent market for the ELT sector with 61 per cent growth. “English New Zealand has always been fairly focused on Thailand and reasonably successful in the market. But last year’s surge was partly the windfall from an extended school holiday season in Thailand as they aligned their academic year with Europe and North America, which saw Thailand grow for all of Australasia, not just New Zealand.”

India was the largest overall growth market across all sectors in the January-to-August 2014 period at 60 per cent. Ed NZ attributed the increase in Indian students to work rights and successful in-country marketing, including the launch of scholarships and media visits. Ed NZ also launched a promotional campaign alongside local agencies in India.

China was the second-largest growth market in terms of overall student numbers, with an additional 2,978 students compared with the same period in 2013. University enrolments increased 14 per cent, and by 39 per cent at master’s level.

Both China and India, along with Indonesia, were targeted by Ed NZ as priority markets. With regards to China, Ed NZ said, “The growth is attributed to a series of activities in-market over the past 18 months, including increased presence in Guangzhou and Shanghai, promotion and awareness-raising activities, and development of closer government, agent, and industry ties.”

Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines were all highlighted as emerging markets performing well, with strategic agent partnerships again among the factors cited.   

In the January-August 2014 period, tuition fee income from overseas students increased by 13 per cent, an additional NZ$83 million (US$62.8 million) compared with the same period in the previous year.

Grant McPherson, Chief Executive of Ed NZ, said in the foreword to the report, “With the growth we are seeing across most parts of the sector, the industry has rebounded from the major setbacks of the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes. To have achieved that milestone by now is no small achievement.”

Looking ahead Conway said, “Growth is probably moderating slightly, but we should still continue to see modest growth, which is healthy and what we want.” 

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