23 May 2016

Students snared to boost local economies

8:53 am on 23 May 2016

Areas including Hawkes Bay, Manawatu and Tauranga are increasingly targeting foreign students as a way of adding millions of dollars a year to their local economies.

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Bringing more students from overseas to smaller regional centres can give a boost to local economies. Photo: AFP

This week, Manawatu organisations launched a plan to grow their income from foreign students by nearly a third by 2020.

Tauranga institutions are looking for a new target after reaching a similar goal a year early.

The Crown entity charged with growing the industry, Education New Zealand, said Auckland dominated the sector and it wanted other parts of the country to do more to grow their enrolments too.

Vision Manawatu international education development manager Judy Bennett-Smith said the region's 3000 foreign students added $62 million a year to the local economy.

She said the plan was to grow that to $80m by 2020 by getting local government and education organisations to work together.

"We're too small really to go off one institute at a time and look for students, so part of my role will be to look for opportunities where we can work together or bring groups of providers together into cluster so they can go after a single opportunity."

Ms Bennett-Smith said most of Manawatu's international students were enrolled at Massey University and it was a focus of the growth plan.

"We would look at getting more students onto pathways into university and not just from within the Palmerston North region but perhaps across the region because Massey is the only university in the central North Island."

Foreign students spend about $3 billion a year and the government has charged Education New Zealand with raising that to $5bn by 2025.

Its general manager of business development, Clive Jones, said 62 percent of New Zealand's international students were in Auckland, and Education New Zealand had been encouraging other parts of the country to realise their potential.

"We'd love to see the rate of growth in regional enrolments actually increase to the point that it's faster than the rate of growth in Auckand."

Mr Jones said that included metropolitan areas such as Wellington and Christchurch, as well as provincial centres.

He said Tauranga was an example of the sort of success that was possible. It aimed to increase enrolments by 15 percent in three years, but achieved that goal in just one year.

The regional manager at Education Tauranga, Anne Young, said the goal was then increased to 35 percent growth between 2013 and 2017 - and that too had been reached a year early.

She said it was achieved by getting schools to market themselves together, and by co-operating with local businesses.

Ms Young said Tauranga had about 1500 foreign students in 2016, many of them in primary schools, but also in tertiary institutions.

Hawkes Bay was aiming for similar success.

The business development manager at Education Hawkes Bay, Stephanie Kennard, said local schools and tertiary institutions had started working together to increase enrolments.

"At the moment we're looking at around 1200 to 1300 students over the course of the year so our aspirations are to get that to around the 1500, 1600 mark by the middle of next year."

Ms Kennard said Hawkes Bay organisations wanted more income from foreign students, but the rewards from increased enrolments were more than just economic.

"There are other aspects to it that are also really important and that's the social and cultural aspects."

She said local students benefited from sitting alongside students from other countries and their schools were able to provide more resources thanks to foreign students' fees.

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