New initiatives expected to result in further growth in international numbers.
International students are returning to New Zealand, latest Immigration New Zealand figures show.
More than 78,445 international students have been approved to study here in the year to October.
Although slightly down from the 80,743 approvals over the same period last year, the approvals are still nearly 9500 higher than the 68,980 in the 2011-12 year.
China continues to be the main source country for international students, with 24,178, making up nearly 31 per cent of the total approvals.
Chinese AUT University student Ely Chen, who has been studying in Auckland for seven months, rates it highly as a study destination.
"People are really friendly and the standard of education here is very high, I feel," said the 29-year-old Masters of Professional Accounting student from Guangzhou.
Miss Chen said she has more friends in Australia, but felt Auckland was a safer city and offered a more conducive environment to study.
A new listing to be released at noon today is expected to rank Auckland among the best cities in the world for students to pursue a university education.
Immigration said further growth could be expected following the Government's announcement of new initiatives to attract international students.
"Changes will make it easier for some international students to work during their studies and allow streamlined visa processing in partnership with selected high-quality education providers," an agency spokeswoman said.
These providers would be offered prioritised visa processing in exchange for being accountable for the immigration outcomes of their students.
The scheme would be rolled out to all providers in the top category, as ranked by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
"NZQA uses external evaluation and review process as its standard means of reviewing the current quality of performance and capability within tertiary education organisations," said spokesperson Lloyd Quartermaine.
Mr Quartermaine said 45 per cent of providers, or 260, were in category one, 256 in category two and 52 in category three.
Seven providers had the lowest rating, and were placed in category four which meant these providers would no longer be granted visas to students seeking to enrol there.
Tim Cooper, the president of Edenz College, a private training establishment, said the rating system was "dividing the industry" and "shutting down schools".
"From next year, it would mean either being in category one or going bust for us," Mr Cooper said.
He said many private training establishments, including Edenz, were "hurting" despite immigration figures showing an increase in approved student visas.
Edenz, which has a category two rating, was in the process of closing its Tauranga branch due to low enrolment numbers.
At least 45 private education providers, mainly in Auckland, have closed since January.