Staging a Comeback: International Students in New Zealand

December 2, 2008

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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International Students: Canadian Trends

November 24, 2008

Canada does not attract as many international students as the U.S., U.K., or Australia, but they are working to change that. This post reports on the Canadian government’s efforts to recruit more students and explores recent problems with student visa fraud.

Imagine Canada
In September, the Canadian government announced that international atudents will be able to apply for work permits and remina in the country for up to 3 years after graduation. This would encourage graduates to use their education in Canada and would pave the way for their eventual naturalization.

In October, provincial education ministers met in Fredricton, New Brunswick, and announced a countrywide brand to recruit international students: “Imagine Education in Canada.” They plan to market Canada as an open, welcoming society and its colleges as world-class institutions of higher learning.

Visa Fraud
Unfortunately, Canada lacks the infrastructure to enforce visa laws. According to an internal report by the Canada Border Services Agency (obtained by the Vancouver Sun), the CBSA is only able to investigate 5% of alleged visa fraud. This enforcement gap means that people can obtain a student visa, arrive in the country legally, and then enter the workforce–circumventing the more rigorous immigrant visa process. I’m sure that many readers based in the U.S. can relate to my experience that some students come to the States and do the same thing. If this can be accomplished in a country with a well-funded enformcement apparatus, it must be that much easier in Canada.

Where is this Going?
If the Canadian government takes the initiative to market the colleges and universities of the whole country, this will undoubtedly help them to recruit more of the best and brightest students in the owlrd. Their 3-year work permit is like none I’ve heard of elsewhere and will also go a long way toward encouraging more students to choose Canadian colleges.

That being said, if Canada develops a reputation as an easy-visa country, this will attract a different applicant pool altogether. In that case, top-tier colleges run the risk of wasting valuable recruiting resources and doing serious damage to a carefully crafted national brand.
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International Students: Trends in the UK

November 19, 2008

After the U.S., Britain welcomes the largest number of international students each year. In this post, I lay out the financial contribution that these students make to the British economy, explore the effects of the recently announced changes to student visas, and end with predictions for the future.

Money, Money, Money
According to the Guardian, international students brought in £10 billion this year ($15 billion), a similar contribution to that made in the U.S. The far more important sum, however, is the estimated £3.5 billion ($5.3 billion) that goes directly to colleges and universities. While some U.S. universities charge higher fees to international students, many British institutions charge significantly more for internationals students to attend than UK nationals. The Patterns of Higher Education in Britain report found that “there has been a marked increase in the number of institutions receiving more than 15% of their total income from international student fees.” Fees from international students now account for more income than research grants for most institutions. At the top of the list, the London School of Economics receives a full 33.5% of its budget from international student fees.

The Visa Situation
The British Home Office announced new rules for student visas on October 30. These include a requirement that institutions must receive a license to invite international students. Students must have already been accepted by a licensed institution to be granted a visa, and they will have to prove that they have the financial means to support themselves while in the country. Finally, institutions will be required to report students who enroll but then do not show up for class.

While these rules have already been protested by some academics, they are remarkably similar to both the Australian and U.S. systems. It should be pointed out that the increased restrictions on student visas was one contributing factor to the downturn in U.S. international students. The British Council, however, has insisted that the new rules will not affect student enrollment.

What will this mean?
Pat Kilingsley of the British Council argues for a more proactive approach from British colleges and universities. This will be critical in order for institutions to maintain their current level of funding.

I believe that the new visa restrictions will have some dampening effect on attendence, but there will not be the accompanying perception of unfriendliness towards internationals that hurt the U.S. so badly following 9/11. Increased competition from the U.S. and Australia will mean that the U.K. will need to fight hard to keep its students, but increasing total number of available students from Asia and the Middle East will mean that many schools will see positive results.
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International Students Add $15.54 Billion to U.S. Economy

November 18, 2008

This fall there have been a number of reports in the news about internatinoal student enrollments at English-speaking colleges and universities. This week’s posts will focus on reported trends and conflicting predictions for the future of international students.

This is an important issue for several reasons. Graduate programs are able to recruit the best talent from a growing global pool of students. Many ESL programs at colleges and private langague schools like Kaplan and GEOS depend on international students.

A third reason for us to all pay attention to where international students choose to study is the size of their financial contribution to local and national economies. A recent study published by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) reports that last year international students and their families added $15.54 billion to the United States economy.

This is no small figure. With money like this at stake, we can expect institutions worldwide to increase their recruitment efforts. The rest of this week’s posts will be about how colleges in different countries are responding to all of this.
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