A recently released report from the New Zealand Ministry of Education provides a number of powerful insights on the country’s international student enrollments. At first glance, the data – which covers primary and secondary schools; public colleges and universities; private training centers; and English language schools from 2001 to 2007 – is encouraging. Between 2001 and 2007, for example, total international student enrollment rose from 79,030 to 90,934 – a strong 15% increase. A closer examination, however, reveals that the number of international students in the New Zealand rose by fully 61 percent from 2001 to 2002 alone. Having risen from 79,030 to 126,919 in the span of single year, this closer examination reveals there has actually been a 28 percent decline since then.
The reasons for this are complicated. Country of origin reports indicate that the growth spike experienced from 2001 to 2002 was largely the result of a single, unsustainable surge in students from China. In the span of a single year enrollment rose from 25,182 to 53,340 – thanks in large part to favorable changes in New Zealand student visa regulations – but since then Chinese student enrollment declined. In 2007, for example, it fell below its 2001 level to 24,776.
Less important are the reasons for this trend and more important are their implications. Since this decline began, the New Zealand Ministry of Education has actively worked to limit its overreliance on a single country (and even Asia in general). In 2001, its top three exchange partners (China, Japan and South Korea) made up 66 percent of all enrollments – a number that peaked in 2003 at 73 percent. Thanks to ongoing efforts to diversify its recruitment portfolio, New Zealand’s efforts to attract students from Europe, North America, and Latin America have paid off. European attendance rates have risen 83 percent from 2001 to 2007 while North American enrollments have risen by 168 percent at the same time.
By contrast, in 2007 students from China, Japan and South Korea made up only 60 percent of international student enrollment. Thus, with its diversified partnerships and strong growth outside traditional strongholds, it can be safely said that the rise in international student enrollments in New Zealand is here to stay.