Staging a Comeback: International Students in New Zealand

This second-to-last country profile on international students explores New Zealand. I describe the sharp decline in international students that New Zealand saw and explore the remedies they are applying to improve the situation.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, international students chose New Zealand in increasing numbers. After a peak of 121,190 students in 2003, the total number fell 25% to 91,301. The closure of two major schools and a reputation of poor service was apparently to blame.

New Zealand’s International Education Appeal Authority reports that the majority of complaints that it receives are about private training establishments. The most common issues raised relate to fair financial practices and full and timely disclosure of information.

A Ministry of Education report shows that an increase in the number of complaints corresponds to the decline in students. While not proving anything, this is a fairly strong indication that worsening service was being reported in students’ home countries—resulting in decreased interest.

As a result, schools (private training enterprises especially) have been receiving increased scrutiny. One private school principal reports that private schools now understand the rules more clearly and suggests the government shift its attention now to public schools.

Stronger marketing practices coincide with this government effort and initial results seem to be good. A group of administrators and researchers are meeting to discuss how best to market the country and promote more integration of international students. First-time visas—a fairly reliable indicator of growth—have increased significantly. Some schools are reporting a shift away from English language study towards content area study in English, and reporting success. There could be some good years ahead for New Zealand. Time will tell, and I’ll report it here.
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