International student numbers have bounced back after years of decline, driving the value of the country's fifth largest export industry to $2.85 billion, says a report by Education New Zealand.
The number of international students increased by 12 per cent to a five-year high of 93,137 in the January to August period last year compared to the same time in 2013, having declined by more than 6 per cent between 2011 and 2013.
The estimated value of the international education industry had increased by $258 million to $2.85 billion, compared to a 2012/13 evaluation.
Acting chief executive for Education New Zealand John Goulter said the 12 per cent rise represented an increase in enrolments of just over 10,000 and was a positive sign that the industry had recovered from the previous few years.
"Numbers in New Zealand were affected by a few major factors such as the Christchurch earthquakes and the global financial crisis, both of which had quite a big effect on international education in New Zealand," Goulter said.
"So what we've seen now is numbers really have been recovering well and are now back at the levels they were reaching before those factors came along and that reflects a lot of hard work right across the industry."
The first two-thirds of the year saw significant growth in Education New Zealand's main markets, with the number of students from China up 12 per cent (2978 enrolments), India enrolments up 60 per cent (5863 enrolments) and Indonesia up 22 per cent (141 enrolments).
Canterbury and Auckland experienced a surge in enrolments, up 17 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Auckland also had the main proportion of international students with 61 per cent studying in Auckland.
"International education is vital to strengthening New Zealand's connections with the world by establishing personal networks, supporting interaction with highly skilled people and introducing our own young people to global perspectives," Goulter said. "Every student who comes here takes an unforgettable experience home with them and raises the profile of this country in communities in all corners of the world."
The rise in enrolments has also seen a corresponding increase in the number of jobs in related industries - an increase of 7.3 per cent or more than 2000 jobs since 2012/2013 means the sector now supports more than 30,000 jobs across New Zealand.
"It's a major industry in terms of the jobs it creates and the export earnings," Goulter said. "The economic benefits are clear; from tuition fees, accommodation and day-to-day living costs to the dollars spent on experiencing all New Zealand has to offer, international students bring a valuable boost to the economy."