The Government has adopted a new strategy aiming to make young New Zealanders "global citizens".
A draft new international education strategy, launched today by Tertiary Education Minister Paul Goldsmith, has dropped numerical targets for income from foreign students and shifted the focus "from a volume to a value model".
The document acknowledges "unintended consequences of the rapid growth" in the $4.5 billion foreign student sector and aims to "strengthen its regulatory settings".
It also takes a much broader approach, setting three goals of developing "an education to be proud of", building "sustainable growth" and fostering "global citizens".
"New Zealanders benefit from enhanced knowledge and understanding of other cultures and languages," the strategy says.
"The Government wants young New Zealanders to be global citizens, and for New Zealand to have a sustainable social, cultural and economic future in which people from all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring.
"Equipping New Zealanders with the international capabilities and readiness required to live and work globally is one of the wider benefits of international education."
Ministry of Education data released last week showed that 31 per cent of all domestic students graduating with bachelor's degrees are overseas in every year from seven to 10 years after graduation. Most go to Australia.
Goldsmith said he wanted NZ students to be "fully equipped to be global Kiwis".
"For most Aucklanders, we already live in a pretty multi-ethnic environment," he said.
"Through the rest of the country it's less so, so it [overseas students] does internationalise their educational environment and equip them better to aspire to an international career."
The new strategy updates a "leadership statement" issued in 2011 which set targets including doubling the economic value of international education to $5 billion by 2025.
The statement projected 15-year increases in international enrolments of 154 per cent for universities, around 140 per cent for polytechnics and private training establishments, 107 per cent for English language students and 33 per cent for schools.
The actual outcome so far has been much faster-than-projected growth in private training establishments, with student numbers up 62 per cent in six years from 25,700 to 42,500, attracted at least partly by the chance to work and eventually obtain residence in New Zealand.
Polytechnic enrolments from overseas have also risen by 49 per cent to 18,200, approximately in line with the 2011 projections, also partly lured by the prospect of residence.
But international students at universities have increased by only 21 per cent to 27,600, about a third of the projected rate of increase.
English language students dropped sharply after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and the global financial crisis and are still 5.5 per cent below 2010 levels, at 24,635.
International students in primary and secondary schools have risen by 12 per cent to 19,200, in line with a projected modest growth rate.
Overall international student numbers have risen 27 per cent to 132,200, compared with a projected increase of 45 per cent.
The new strategy says the annual value of international education "has already passed $4 billion and is on the way to achieving the Leadership Statement for International Education goal of $5b earnings by 2025".
"To promote sustainable growth in the industry, the Government will support a shift up the value chain by moving from a volume to a value model of delivery and student recruitment," the strategy says.
"In the future, the focus will be on better targeting and attracting those with the qualifications needed and skills that complement the NZ labour market to stay and work in New Zealand."
The new strategy is open for consultation until August 31.