27 Jan 2015

Indian student numbers continue to rise

6:01 am on 27 January 2015

Educators expect a surge in the number of Indians studying in New Zealand will continue this year, adding millions of dollars to the economy.

In the first eight months of last year about 15,640 Indian students were studying in New Zealand, a 60 percent increase over the same period in 2013.

The government estimates the students would have spent $433 million on fees and living costs, and that figure looks set to grow even further this year.

Seventy percent of Indian students are enrolled with private tertiary institutions and about 20 percent with polytechnics.

The Independent Tertiary Institutions represents 14 education companies.

Its chairman Feroz Ali said the growth was likely to continue unabated.

"I'm expecting it to grow at a similar level to 2014 and that's due to several factors ... the New Zealand dollar where it is (and ) more importantly, there's the right incentives in place for attracting students to New Zealand."

Those incentives included the ability to get a job-seeker visa and potentially qualify for residency.

Mr Ali said tertiary institutions had the capacity to take even more foreign students. The total number is not yet at the peak experienced in the early 2000s and the main risk to the now-booming Indian market was failing to deliver what had been promised.

"We've got to give them high quality edcation but also we've got to come true to ... whatever we promised them. You're going to get a world class education but would that lead to meaningful employment or further training? And if we don't keep that promise, that's going to damage our reputation."

Education New Zealand is the government agency overseeing the export education sector.

Acting chief executive John Goulter said there were early signs last year's Indian growth would continue.

He said applications for student visas were up in the second-half of last year and the market could continue to grow for some time.

"For the next four or five years we see India continuing to be a really strong source of students. Obviously India's a huge country and just some of the simply demographics are that it has a huge and growing middle class who are looking for high quality education," he said.

Mr Goulter said most of the demand from India was for vocationally-oriented qualifications, and that was why most enrolments had been in the the private and polytechnic sectors.

He said countries including Australia, Canada and Germany also had rapidly growing numbers of Indian students.

Chief executive of the Wellington Institute of Technology Linda Sissons said Indian students had long been its largest group of international students, with about 150 full-time equivalents.

The institute was hoping to benefit from the current surge in interest from India and it had already noticed strong enrolments for the 2015 academic year, she said.

Government figures show the total number of international students from all countries rose 12 percent to more than 93,000 in the first eight months of last year, with their total spending reaching an estimated 2.8 billion dollars a year.