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The Government of New Zealand is to establish a new Crown Agency focused on international education. The new entity will consolidate under one roof the efforts to promote New Zealand higher education abroad. Currently, three bodies – the Ministry of Education, Education New Zealand (ENZ) and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) – all play roles in this area. In the new arrangement, existing Ministry of Education, ENZ and NZTE functions and staff will move to the new agency. For example, the Ministry of Education Counsellor currently based in Brussels and the NZTE education official in Hamburg will be brought together into one organisation. In addition to international promotion, tasks to be taken on include the training and accreditation of education agents in New Zealand and abroad; the commissioning of research in international education and the recognition of foreign qualifications, among other activities.
The new agency is expected to be up and running by September 2011. It will likely carry the name Education New Zealand, but differ substantively in form. For example, while the current Education New Zealand is a voluntary association of institutions which have international students, the new Crown Agency will be a state-owned organisation reporting through a board to the Minister for Tertiary Education. Its offshore staff will have diplomatic status. In this way, it will be a similar structure to many of the national-level international education bodies seen throughout European states. The board of the existing organisation of the same name has publically endorsed the move to create the new entity.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has indicated that “a single agency, solely focused on international education, will provide a sharper focus, better coordination and better value for money” for marketing and overseas representation. The stakes are high for the country, which estimates income from higher education exports on the order of NZD 2 billion (EUR 1.2 billion) per year. Some 32 000 jobs are also said to be tied to the sector. In addition to the challenges of being a “small country operating in a very large international market”, Joyce has also noted that the tragedy of the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011 (which claimed the lives of “a number of international students”) has required a special effort on the part of New Zealand to reassure students, families and other countries that “we remain a safe and reputable international education destination and we are very much open for business”.