Institutions expect 5000 foreign student places to be snapped up

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Schools, universities and other tertiary institutions are expecting little trouble filling the biggest intake of foreign students since the borders closed two years ago.

Students  sit on chair  interior classroom learning in education university

Photo: 123RF

From today they can start nominating students for their share of the 5000 places available for entry to the country from the middle of the year.

International students used to be worth $5 billion a year to the economy, but enrolments have plummeted since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Institutions have until 6 May to fill their share of the available places, otherwise they go to another institution.

Based on 2019 enrolments, universities were allocated 1450 students, polytechnics 700, English language schools 1000, private institutions 850, and secondary schools 1000.

That’s a lot fewer than the institutions would enrol in a normal year and inevitably some people have missed out.

Among them, Dhruv Broda, who said he had been studying commerce online from Mumbai, India, with Victoria University since the middle of last year.

He said he was disappointed at not gaining a place in the midyear cohort, but it was lucky he did not have high hopes of being included.

“I hope next year I will be there in New Zealand. I hope that day comes soon, before October,” he said.

School critical of process

Some institutions were also disappointed by the allocation.

Macleans College principal Steve Hargreaves said it applied for 29 students but only received 10.

He said he was deeply disappointed because the school had worked hard to keep its international staff employed and maintained relations with overseas agents and families.

“We’ve run a really big international programme for decades and to be given 10, and I know that neighbouring schools with quite small programmes have been given six or seven places, I just find that really inequitable, unfair and I don’t think it actually is in the best interests of New Zealand’s international market,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ve paid any attention to the size of the school programme or the time and effort and investment that schools have put in over the last few years and I also am pretty sure these schools don’t actually have students ready to enrol because they haven’t kept their programmes going, whereas we do.”

The allocation system ensured all 177 schools that applied were successful with the places spread across different regions and types of school.

Education New Zealand said school applications were assessed by a panel that included representatives from Education New Zealand, the Ministry of Education, the Qualifications Authority and sector peak bodies, including the Schools International Education Business Association.

Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand chairperson Craig Musson said the allocation for private tertiary institutions would ensure some staff did not lose their jobs but it was not really enough.

“It will be able to keep some … staff employed and bring some money for the year for the international sector. It’s not going to appease everybody and it’s one of those things, it was a bit of a lottery really,” he said.

He said his own institution, National Trade Academy, got 35 of the 70 student places it applied for and he expected no trouble filling those spots.

“The issue for us will be going back to the students who put their names forward and will now miss out and will have to wait either for a further allocation or apply in October for next year,” he said.

“Obviously 5000 is not as many as we wanted and considering our other competitor countries are opening up their borders fully now and have done for a while, now we’re on the back foot and the agents are telling us that.

“They’re telling us students are choosing to go to Australia and Canada because they’re opened up.”

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New Zealand is “on the back foot” when it comes to attracting foreign students, Craig Musson says. Photo: 123RF

English language schools happy

Managing Director of Languages International Darren Conway

Darren Conway Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Darren Conway from English New Zealand said English language schools were pleased with their allocation.

“We’re on the path to recovery now and yes it will mean schools can stay open. It’s going to be a bit of a bumpy route there because it’s not like the thousand students are all going to arrive at one time.

“In fact the scheme is designed so that students are to arrive by October so we may be waiting as far as October for some of those students,” he said.

Conway said it should be relatively easy to find students to fill the spots.

“We’ve got to rebuild awareness in the market. Some of our agents are saying that New Zealand’s gone off the radar so that will take a little bit of time. But there’s a lot of pent-up demand around,” he said.

Chris Whelan from Universities New Zealand said the eight universities received a fair share of the places, but could have filled all 5000 spots themselves.

Whelan said students were contacting the organisation to try to find ways of coming to New Zealand to continue their studies in person.

“I’m hearing regularly from students who have been reading the announcements about the reopening of the border. I had one just the other day saying it just seems bizarre that I can book a trip to New Zealand as a visitor for six months but I can’t start studying while I’m there.

“So it is disappointing that we are not yet open to these students. There’s a lot that started studies last year that are waiting to get here,” he said.

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