1 May 2017

Foreign student numbers jump

7:54 am on 1 May 2017

A jump in enrolments from China and the Americas will push the number of foreign students in New Zealand past 130,000 this year, Education New Zealand says.

Ha Vo from Vietnam is one of more than 130,000 foreign students expected to study in New Zealand this year. She is in her third year of study at Victoria University.

Ha Vo from Vietnam is one of more than 130,000 foreign students expected to study in New Zealand this year. She is in her third year of study at Victoria University. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

The government agency responsible for the international education sector said the students would spend about $4.5 billion on fees and living costs this year, making it New Zealand's fourth largest export earner.

Education New Zealand analysis of study visa figures showed universities, schools and polytechnics had more students at the start of April than at the same time last year, but private institutions had fewer.

It said there were 18 percent more Chinese students than at the start of April last year - an extra 3700 .

The number of students from Latin American nations was up 31 percent, and the number from south-east Asia was up six percent.

However, there were 4199 fewer Indian students at the start of April, a drop of 24 percent.

Education New Zealand chief executive Grant McPherson said the increases more than offset the decline, which had happened in the private tertiary sector as a result of changes to the rules for testing students' English.

Grant McPherson, Chief Executive of Education New Zealand.

Grant McPherson Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

There had been big increases in the number of new visas issued to first-time students from some of the smaller source countries.

"These are off relatively small bases, but the United States in terms of student visas grew by 46 percent, Vietnam 115 percent, Brazil at 40 percent and Chile at 100 percent," he said.

Mr McPherson said those increases would help make New Zealand less reliant on its main source countries for foreign students, China and India.

He denied that the overall increase was driven by changes to the value of the New Zealand dollar relative to other currencies. Rather, it was because more people recognised what New Zealand had to offer and because education providers were co-ordinating their marketing, he said.

University of Otago international director Simon Chu said universities were seeing growth in most markets.

Otago's international enrolments had grown about six percent this year with particular growth from US students enrolling for one-semester 'study abroad' programmes, and from Indian and Chinese students.

Schools International Education Business Association executive director John van der Zwan said more students were renewing their study visas and studying for longer.

"The returning visa numbers are significantly up on what they have been, which is a really promising sign," he said.

"It's an indication that they're coming with the intention of staying for a longer period of time, for multiple years."

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