NZ’s international education sector putting pandemic upheaval behind it.
Interest from international students choosing to study here appears to have taken off in recent months, sparking optimism that high-value students seeking a quality education continue to view New Zealand favourably.
Marie Clark, Director of Insights at Education New Zealand (ENZ), says one of the signs of this renewed interest is the number of overseas users who visit the Study with New Zealand website.
In June alone, more than 350,000 users went to the site, a massive leap from the 75,000 visitors in November 2022 and the 295,000 in February 2023.
Clark says while this traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into students coming here, what it does show is that interest in New Zealand as a study destination is still high.
She says the number of international student visa holders (those here studying) has risen by 98 per cent since borders re-opened. To the end of June there were 37,839 students here, up from nearly 34,000 at the beginning of March.
“Demand for international education (IE) around the world is high and this latest data shows that New Zealand is very much part of the decision-making process for many international students,” she says.
“We are doing a lot of work abroad and are confident we will continue to attract students seeking a quality New Zealand education. In time, we expect to see more bright minds from overseas contributing positively to New Zealand.”
A recent study conducted by professional services company EY on behalf of ENZ - the Broader Impact Valuation Report – shows Covid caused a massive upheaval for international education. In 2019, the year immediately before the pandemic struck, the sector’s direct financial contribution to New Zealand’s GDP (gross domestic product) was $3.7 billion, a figure that nose-dived to an estimated $0.8 billion in 2020.
But, at the same time, the report suggests IE’s contribution to the New Zealand economy has the potential to grow and return to pre-pandemic levels by 2030.
The report found that while 75 per cent of international students return home after three years, 23 per cent transition into occupations here in long-term skill shortage areas.
Overseas students living and working in New Zealand in 2019 and 2020 alone, according to the report, contributed around $6 billion in the form of labour supply and productivity.
Clark says while the report confirms the tough time the sector has had over the past three years, it also shows it is possible for it to become a vibrant, sustainable and resilient sector in the future.
The surge in interest has followed ENZ’s I Am New campaign launched late last year along with the work of ENZ’s in-market teams. The campaign, which included a mix of paid digital advertising across Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, WeChat and Bilibili, reached an audience of 57 million outside of China and 19 million within China. This resulted in clicks on the ads of 1.2 million and 109,000 respectively.
Clark says international students bring a multitude of benefits and value – and it is not just economic.
“It helps with multicultural understanding while they are here,” she says. “We frequently hear reports of New Zealanders often meeting international student alumni who have ended up in positions of influence in their own countries.
“This can be important long term for New Zealand because as a result of their time here they have an understanding of our culture and how our country operates.
“While they are here they also give Kiwi students a great opportunity to study alongside them and experience other cultures.”
She says last year, the government launched the refreshed New Zealand International Education Strategy 2022-2030, which outlines New Zealand’s commitment to develop a more high-value, resilient and innovative education sector for both international and domestic students, one where it once again prospers and supports the things important to our country.
“The goal is to ensure the sector’s contribution to the New Zealand economy can return to pre-pandemic levels by 2030 at the very latest.”
For more information about the contribution of international students to New Zealand, visit ENZ’s website