Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Foreign students turned off by NZ

Labour blames dodgy education providers and agents for drop in fee-paying customers from abroad.

Foreign student numbers are rising at top educators such as Auckland University. Photo / Greg Bowker
Foreign student numbers are rising at top educators such as Auckland University. Photo / Greg Bowker

Immigration "hiccups", dodgy education providers and unscrupulous student agents are damaging New Zealand's export education reputation, says Labour export education spokesman Raymond Huo.

Mr Huo said fewer international students were choosing to study here because New Zealand had an image as being a destination for "ghetto education".

The Labour list MP has a private member's bill in the ballot that is seeking to tighten rules about small private schools having international or national titles in their business names.

A Ministry of Education report to be released this week is expected to show a 6 per cent drop in overall fee-paying student enrolment.

The annual Migration Trends and Outlook, released last Friday, reported a 7 per cent drop in international student approvals to 68,980 - the lowest since 2008.

The number of first-time student visa approvals had also dropped about 25 per cent since 2009.

However, Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce said that despite the drop in student numbers, there was a 2 per cent increase in the amount of fees collected by education providers.

The decline had mainly come from fewer students enrolling for language courses, but there was an increase in "higher value" students arriving here last year, he said.

"What the numbers show is that there is a decline in ... the lower end of the spectrum, but there's a rise going on with the polytechnics, universities and the higher-end PTEs."

Mr Joyce said the focus now was to seek new student markets, such as South America and Asean nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and work on the recovery of the Japanese and South Korean markets. Mr Huo said overseas agents promoting student visas for other immigration purposes and Immigration's mistake in approving hundreds of Chinese applicants with fraudulent documents last year had given New Zealand a bad name.

"A number of private training establishments have abused their naming rights and have created a credibility issue for New Zealand's export education system with the term ghetto education being used in China and other countries to describe the state of facilities here."

Mr Huo said Labour would develop a co-ordinated export education marketing strategy and introduce a licensing regime for education agents, similar to that for immigration adviser licensing, if it won the next election.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said formal licensing of education agents was not currently being considered.

"Education agents, many of whom operate offshore, play an important marketing and attraction role for our export education sector," Mr Woodhouse said.

"We need to ensure that we do not put up unnecessary barriers for overseas students wishing to study here."

The Government aims to more than double the value of the export education industry from $2.3 billion to $5 billion over the next 15 years.

- NZ Herald

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