European student referrals to New Zealand universities have jumped 136 per cent after Britain's Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
The Government-owned overseas marketing agency Education NZ says the increase came after a "cheeky" social media campaign in five European countries late last year.
It is about to launch a new campaign on September 1 offering undergraduate and graduate scholarships to students in Europe, as well as in the United States where the same campaign has been run for three years.
Staff told an international education conference in Auckland today that New Zealand stood to gain from both Brexit, which may close free entry for European students to British universities, and US President Donald Trump's attempted travel bans against seven Muslim countries.
The agency's regional director for the Americas and Europe Lisa Futschek said the post-Brexit social media campaign targeted students in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark who would have studied in Britain when it was expected to stay in the European Union.
The campaign used maps of Britain and New Zealand showing that both countries were about the same size but New Zealand was much less crowded.
"There was a huge appetite for an alternative study destination," she said.
The campaign drew 2176 students who clicked through from the social media messages to get more information about studying in New Zealand, and then contacted the websites of NZ universities - up 136 per cent from the same period the previous year.
"In addition we saw the sessions on the Study NZ website increase in Germany by more than 5000 per cent, in France by more than 3000 per cent and in Sweden by more than 1000 per cent," Futschek said.
"That tells me there is a significant opportunity for us in Europe."
For the first time, New Zealand's "Go Overseas" scholarships that have been promoted in the United States will also be promoted in Europe from next month, featuring last year's winner from the US, Alicia Cotsoradis.
They offer only two $15,000 undergraduate semester scholarships, available for any NZ university, and two $10,000 graduate scholarships for Auckland or Otago Universities. But Futschek said 3000 Americans applied for the single scholarship that was offered last year.
"Even though there is only one person that wins the final scholarship, the engagement is such that students come anyway and we have seen a significant uptake in enrolments from the US," she said.
Only 9 per cent of New Zealand's international students last year came from Europe and 3 per cent from North America, both ranking well behind China (29 per cent) and India (21 per cent).
But first-time enrolments from the US were up 20 per cent in the year to July.
Dr Esther Brimmer, head of the Washington-based NAFSA Association of International Educators, said international student applications dropped at 39 per cent of US colleges after Trump's attempt to ban travel from seven Muslim countries early this year.
"People from other countries in the same region, some Middle East and some African countries, are saying we are worried because we are wondering is this related to what was discussed in the campaign, a Muslim ban," she said.
"We would anticipate that there may be international students who would be looking at other places where they can get an excellent education in the English language in a safe environment.
"The Canadians have been saying they have already seen a dramatic surge in applications, to the point that our sister association in Canada recognises that there is a capacity question, they are getting so many applications to universities.
"We would anticipate that other similar countries, including New Zealand, would probably see an increase."