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New Zealand international student numbers: encouraging results

At the end of March, the New Zealand Ministry of Education released its statistics on trends in international student numbers for the year 2011. One of the major themes serving as a backdrop to the data is the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 on the international education industry, which has an estimated annual contribution of NZD 2.5 billion (EUR 1.54 billion) to the New Zealand economy.

Despite the negative effect of the earthquakes on the Canterbury region, which experienced a 37% drop in international students in 2011, the total number of international fee-paying tertiary students decreased only by a negligible number (from 81 974 to 81 604) between 2010 and 2011. The overall figure excludes Australian students who, within the context of regional relations between the two countries, are not considered “international” and are subject to the same fee regime and conditions as domestic students.

The statistics on the major course of study of tertiary education international students show that 44% were enrolled in English programmes for speakers of other languages, followed by courses in management and commerce (21%), natural and physical sciences (6.4%) and information technology (6.2%).

In terms of sending countries, the majority of international students came from China (24.5%), followed by India (15%), South Korea (9.8%), Japan and Saudi Arabia, with 9.1% and 6.6% respectively. These trends are very much in line with the government-published 2011 study on potential international student markets, which identified China (universities), India (polytechnics), South Korea (language providers), and Japan (private providers) as the major sources of international students and Saudi Arabia (private providers, universities) as holding great potential for future growth.

Despite the decrease in the overall numbers of international students, the total tuition fee income for tertiary providers registered a 4% increase between 2010 and 2011 (from EUR 361 million to EUR 376 million). Moreover, tertiary education accounted for more than 83% of the total tuition fee income across all sectors. This positive trend is encouraging for the Ministry’s strategy for the sector, outlined in the 2011 Leadership Statement for International Education. By 2025, the government is aiming to double the economic impact of international education, to NZD 5 billion (i.e. EUR 3.1 billion).

With the national recovery efforts steadily progressing and the government’s commitment to support the international education sector in Christchurch over the next four years through a NZD 5 million (EUR 3.1 million) marketing fund (cf. March 29 press release), there is a good chance international students will return in much greater numbers than before.

Ministry of Education – Education Counts Ministry of Education – Prospect enrolment countries Ministry of Education – Leadership statement for international education New Zealand government press release