The role international students play in our schools and economy

August 2017


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GRANT McPHERSON, chief executive of Education New Zealand, says international students do more than just fuel our economy.

International studentsThe growth in international education is a global phenomenon. Currently five million students leave their homes to study in another country each year. By 2025 this figure is expected to reach eight million.

In New Zealand, international education is already our fourth-largest export industry, valued at $4.5 billion and responsible for more than 33,000 jobs. In 2016 more than 131,600 international students were enrolled in our schools, universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, as well as private providers of many types.

We can take pride in the increasing number of these bright young people heading to our shores. International students are bringing fresh perspectives, new international connections and cultural diversity to campuses and communities across New Zealand. When students from different countries choose to study in New Zealand, they can also become lifelong ambassadors for us.

In the last two months, for example, we’ve heard about a Danish teenager learning Māori art and carving at a te reo school, a WITT graduate from Rio de Janeiro who is now a project oceanographer and marketing coordinator in New Plymouth, and an Indian design student balancing his master’s study at UCOL with professional game design.

Then there’s the 16-year-old Austrian student at Feilding High School, who said, “New Zealand will always be an unforgettable part of my life and will stay in my heart forever”, and the Brazilian student who said her time at Heretaunga College is “a different way of studying, more practical. It’s not just on the theory”.

International students also support innovation and research excellence in our universities, and this is reflected in the quality and impact of
New Zealand’s research output. Since 2005 the number of international PhD students in New Zealand has increased from fewer than 5,000 to more than 9,000 in 2015. In this time the rate of citation of New Zealand research has risen to 1.26 times the world average, and all eight universities are now in the top 450 in the 2018 QS world university rankings, compared with only three in 2005.

These people are talented and ambitious and they want to build on their education and work towards a prosperous future. New Zealand has positioned itself as an ideal study destination for them.

Quality education

International students look to New Zealand for a rich learning experience, and it’s not hard to see why. All our universities rank in the top three per cent in the world. Our private training providers and ITPs offer a broad range of practical courses that produce ‘work-ready’ graduates. At school level, New Zealand students score above OECD averages in reading, maths and science.

Many international students, accustomed to a knowledge-based education approach, are attracted to the Kiwi approach that develops students’ skills and competencies so they can apply knowledge with innovation and creativity – not just recite it. Best of all, New Zealand offers all of this in a safe, welcoming and beautiful environment. 

Student wellbeing

International students are highly sought after, and New Zealand competes with the US, UK, Canada and Australia, as well as less traditional markets such as China, Malaysia and Germany, for their attention.

To stay at the forefront of the industry, we need to ensure international students receive an excellent level of pastoral care here and that there is high-quality assurance and oversight of the education they are receiving.

The International Student Wellbeing Strategy was recently launched to help protect and enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a safe and welcoming study destination. The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Paul Goldsmith has allocated funding from the Export Education Levy for new local and national initiatives to support the outcomes of the strategy. 

It’s important to note that the vast majority of students who come to New Zealand have a positive experience. The recent closures of several tertiary education providers do not reflect the wider industry – in fact, they are proof that the system is working. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority actively monitors tertiary providers and takes strong action where it finds evidence that quality education is not being delivered.

Minister Goldsmith also recently launched the Government’s new draft New Zealand International Education Strategy for consultation. The strategy outlines a series of proposed principles and actions to ensure that international education will continue to contribute to a vibrant and prosperous New Zealand, and consultation will close at the end of August.

Kiwis going offshore

As an island nation in the Asia-Pacific region and one that depends on international trade, New Zealand’s future success relies greatly on our ability to build relationships with people from other cultures. Simply put, the students of today will live in a world that is far more globally connected than ever before, and global perspectives are needed in order for them to thrive.

Successful New Zealand businesses increasingly need cosmopolitan people who can navigate international business cultures and languages, understand disparate markets and can effectively manage diverse teams – all this on top of specific technical skills.

Welcoming international students to New Zealand offers an initial opportunity for Kiwis to develop these skills at home. We are also seeing growing numbers of New Zealand students heading offshore to further develop their global perspectives and experience the benefits of international education for themselves.

Since 2013 the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia and Latin America have enabled more than 1,100 Kiwis to travel and study in Asian and Latin American countries. Likewise, the China Sister Schools programme is helping pupils from across the country spend time with their peers in China – many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity.

Every day, international students look to take their ideas, energy and talent around the world. It is something worth celebrating that so many students want to start that journey with us.

Auckland study part of the curriculum at Korean college 

Auckland is set to welcome a new group of Korean international students, thanks to an agreement that sees the inclusion of studying in New Zealand’s largest city as part of the curriculum at the training institute, Koguryeo College.

Under the agreement, 120 Korean tertiary students from the college will come to Auckland each year, beginning in 2019. The students will spend 12 months studying and gaining practical experience in the region as part of their three-year training course.

Koguryeo College teaches a range of courses covering sectors including aviation, food science, natural energy engineering, tourism and hospitality. The college has chosen to include Auckland because of the region’s ability to provide hands-on international experience to students on top of a great study lifestyle. The students will attend either the Auckland Institute of Studies (AIS), Academics College Group (ACG) or Cornell. 

Korea is currently the fourth-largest market for the international education sector in New Zealand, with 7,500 choosing to study here each year and 5,000 of these students basing themselves in Auckland. The Korean market contributes $167 million a year to Auckland, while this new agreement will deliver an additional $3.5 million per year to the regional economy.

Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) international education manager Henry Matthews says the new partnership eventuated after ATEED hosted a group of visiting principals from Korea earlier this year as part of a professional development programme.

“The Korean principals were so impressed by the warm welcome they received in Auckland and the high standard of education institutes on offer, and great Kiwi lifestyle, they suggested to the college that Auckland would be the ideal study destination,” he says.

“For Korean students, gaining international work and study experience can put them ahead of other candidates when they’re looking for employment after their studies.”

As part of the agreement, Koguryeo College will also have two scholarships for New Zealand and international students based here to go to Korea and learn the language and take part in the college’s various training programmes.  

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