Darryn Melrose: Indian students of huge value to NZ

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Critical rhetoric is disappointing given skill and experience helping make digital sector a world leader.
Most Indian students who study with us have an existing set of skills that are in high demand and short supply.  Photo / Getty Images
Most Indian students who study with us have an existing set of skills that are in high demand and short supply. Photo / Getty Images

As the chief executive of a tertiary provider that prides itself on having a truly diverse student culture, I am concerned about anti-Indian rhetoric I have heard in response to the increased number of Indian students choosing to study in New Zealand.

The Media Design School in Auckland is ranked among the top three schools in the world providing visual effects, animation and game development qualifications. This, coupled with India's booming information technology sector (India is now one of the leading exporters of IT services in the world) has led to an increased number of Indian students enrolling in our undergraduate degrees and graduate diploma programmes.

Last year, students from India comprised 25 per cent of Media Design School's total international student cohort, all of whom made a valuable contribution to the global culture of our school. Most Indian students who study with us have an existing set of skills that are in high demand and short supply.

So much so that many of these skills appear on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list.

Many have a solid background in IT and most have sound work experience behind them, having worked in industries such as advertising, digital media, and Bollywood.

One such example is that of Aniket Ujjainkar, who enrolled in Media Design School's bachelor of art and design programme last year having worked for many years as a 3D animation artist for well-known Indian visual effects company Red Chillies, based in Mumbai. Before studying with us, Aniket worked on Bollywood blockbusters including a science fiction film starring legendary Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan.

Aniket was snapped up after graduating and is now a creature assistant and technical director for Weta. Stories such as his are not unique. This year alone, our Indian graduates have secured jobs at some of New Zealand's top digital and animation companies including Park Road Post Production, Cirkus Animation and The Orange Group.

The India education market is extremely important to the growth of this industry. In 2014, the New Zealand screen industry, led by growth in digital animation, was worth $3.155 billion.

Indian students are helping us to fill skill shortages in this area and are going on to secure jobs in fields that were previously being held back through a lack of trained graduates. Indian international students therefore play a key role in ensuring New Zealand's digital sector remains globally competitive.

A lot of the adverse commentary has focused on the fact that many Indian students are choosing to study at private training establishments (PTEs). As a PTE ourselves, we have heard speculation that the increase of student numbers from India is detrimental to the reputation of both high-performing PTEs and New Zealand's education sector as a whole.

PTEs have a lot to offer students - they are focused on making students work-ready and have very high employment rates. In 2014, Media Design School saw 93 per cent of our graduates employed in their chosen specialisation.

There is plenty of evidence that not only shows the value that Indian students place on receiving a New Zealand education, but that also demonstrates the value that Indian international students are adding to New Zealand. It would be a shame if we lost sight of the talent and opportunities students like Aniket bring for New Zealand's economic growth and for future global partnerships.

Darryn Melrose is chief executive of Media Design School.

- NZ Herald

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