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New Zealand’s international enrolment up 13% in 2014; growth continuing this year

New data from Education New Zealand provides the final word on a strong 2014 for the country’s international education sector. International student numbers were up 13% over 2013 (an increase of 13,091 students) to reach a total of 110,198 for the year. This led in turn to a 17% increase in tuition revenues for 2014, sharply reversing the previous two-year trend of declining enrolment and marking the highest international enrolment levels in New Zealand in more than a decade.

Total international student enrolment in New Zealand, 2010-2014. Source: Education New Zealand

The 13% growth for 2014 improves on earlier forecasts based on volume of student visas issued. It also reflects a very strong finish to the year where New Zealand saw third-trimester growth of 21% over the period from September to December (compared to the same period in 2013).

Nevertheless, some of the same trends visible in that earlier visa tracking data did indeed prove to be important growth drivers throughout the year.

This is particularly true of the strong growth in Indian student numbers foreshadowed in the previously released student visa data.

India and China accounted for the bulk of 2014’s enrolment growth but India alone sent 8,135 more students during the year (67% growth over 2013 and a volume equivalent to 62% of the total increase for 2014). China, meanwhile, was up 12% and accounted for roughly a quarter of the overall enrolment growth for the year.

“There has [also] been significant growth from a number of emerging markets,” adds Education New Zealand. “Colombia, France, Chile and the Philippines are a few of the emerging markets that have experienced record level enrolments.”

Picking up on another important trend that was apparent in the earlier visa tracking data, much of the enrolment growth for the year was focused in the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITP) and Private Training Establishments (PTE) sectors, which grew 15% and 37% respectively.

As the following table reflects, all other segments of international education – schools, universities, and English language programmes – grew more modestly, in the range of 3-5%.

Summary of enrolment and tuition levels by educational segment, 2014 compared to 2013. Source: Education New Zealand

As the table also reflects, the university segment remains the highest-value component of the New Zealand industry, with total international tuition revenues of NZ$343.4 million in 2014 – this in spite of the fact that the PTE segment enrols considerably more international students after last year’s growth.

International enrolment by education segment, 2010-2014. Source: Education New Zealand

The significant growth for 2014 also means a greater economic impact for an international education sector in New Zealand that is now valued at NZ$2.85 billion (US$1.87 billion) and estimated to support 30,230 jobs.

The latest on 2015

Education New Zealand has also recently released new visa tracking data for the first two quarters of 2015, and here again we see important indicators of continuing growth this year. Year-to-date through June 2015, both the total number of student visas issued and the total number of new student visas issued increased by 10%.

Month-by-month visa volumes in both categories have consistently tracked above those of 2014 throughout the first half of 2015, suggesting that New Zealand is on course for another year of strong enrolment growth.

As was the case throughout 2014, much of that growth is again being driven by China and India. Student visas issued to Indian students are up 22% YTD June 2015. Interestingly, however, the dramatic growth in PTE enrolment recorded for 2014 seems to be moderating in the first half of 2015, with Indian enrolments in particular shifting to the ITP segment to a greater extent.

This shift is reflected in overall volumes of first-time visas (that is, visas issued to new students) by educational segment. As the following chart reflects, the ITP segment is showing stronger growth this year, PTE growth is moderating somewhat, and university enrolment is tracking higher YTD as well.

First-time student visas issued by education segment, June 2015 (YTD). Source: Education New Zealand

While we will wait for final enrolment data for 2015 for more insights on the higher education segment, the growth in first-time student enrolment in universities (YTD 2015) may reflect the continuation of a trend toward increasing postgraduate enrolment that Education New Zealand first highlighted in 2014.

Education New Zealand also highlights the Philippines (95% increase in first-time student visas; 76% increase in total student visas YTD June 2015) and Brazil (22% in total student visas YTD) as two key emerging markets that are helping to drive growth this year.

As is the case with India, Filipino enrolment is skewing heavily to the PTEs and ITPs segments in New Zealand. Brazilian students are also helping to boost overall numbers in PTEs but, interestingly, are also showing strong growth in the secondary school segment as well.

Turning the corner

Education New Zealand points back to 2013 as the turning point for enrolment growth in the country. That was the year that New Zealand introduced new work rights for international students. Some months later, it also introduced improvements to visa processing and launched an extensive and highly effective “Think New” branding campaign.

As we commented at the time, “Notable (and laudable) about both New Zealand’s Think New marketing campaign and its immigration initiatives is the degree of coordination among various stakeholders in the country’s international education sector. Industry groups, education providers, and foreign-based agents have all been consulted in the design and deployment of the initiatives.

Moreover, their expertise and particular roles in international recruitment are being actively leveraged in the execution of the campaigns and new visa processing systems.”

As the latest visa data indicates, the results of this close coordination between policy and market development continue to reflect in the impressive growth that New Zealand’s international education sector has seen over 2014 and 2015.

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