Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

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New Zealand aims to build on positive perceptions from COVID response

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • New Zealand’s peak international education body, Education New Zealand, is leveraging the country’s enhanced image overseas to attract students in key markets including Brazil, China Indonesia, and Vietnam
  • The “progressive, forward-thinking” positioning jibes with a priority of attracting a higher quality of student to enrol in advanced degrees such as master’s
  • Video campaigns in target markets are prompting high engagement from prospective students

Before the pandemic, when you thought about New Zealand, you probably thought first about nature and stunning landscapes. But New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s handling of the COVID crisis – as well as her approach in a wide range of areas – has added a new dimension to the image the country projects to the rest of the world.

New data shows that demand remains very strong in several key source markets for New Zealand education despite borders remaining closed. And major branding campaigns run throughout 2020 aim to leverage this moment in New Zealand’s history to further strengthen the country’s position in international student markets.

As Grant McPherson, CEO of Education New Zealand, says in the introduction to the latest quarterly report on the country’s international education sector,

“The data tells us that student interest in New Zealand as a place to study remains strong, with more than one million international students visiting our student-facing websites during 2020.

The way we’ve handled COVID has shone a halo over New Zealand, shifting global perceptions of us from being just about epic landscapes to being a progressive, forward-looking nation.

This has also seen us jump to the top of the rankings compared to our traditional competitors Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States as the safest place to study, and one that acts for the collective good.

We have been working to lock in this new perception and to help keep New Zealand visible and have recently run one of our most successful brand campaigns to date in several significant markets.”

Demand remains strong despite closed borders

Early on in the pandemic, New Zealand’s government adopted the most cautious approach of all study abroad destinations to containing the spread of COVID – locking the country down and completely closing borders. As deaths mounted in many countries – notably in the UK and US, where COVID deaths are now counted in the hundreds of thousands – New Zealand saw its cases drop to single digits, and sometimes to zero.

The closed borders frustrated the immediate plans of current and prospective international students hoping to study in New Zealand – but the government’s overall success at minimising suffering has created a strong brand image of a compassionate, progressive nation. Data confirms that demand among international students and agents for New Zealand is strong. For example:

  • More than 1.2 million users visited the Study in New Zealand website in 2020, resulting in 12,000 new registrations – and all search was organic (no paid media campaigns occurred in 2020) – which suggests especially genuine and deep interest from students actively searching for New Zealand;
  • There are nearly 5,000 agents from over 79 countries registered with Education New Zealand’s AgentLab, and nearly half of those agents registered in 2020 alone;
  • Of the hundreds of students who attended October and November virtual education fairs in Thailand, Vietnam, and India, 40% requested that their information be sent to an education provider in New Zealand for follow-up.

Video campaigns achieve impressive results

Education New Zealand ran a video-based campaign in July/August 2020 that reached more than 30 million people in Indonesia, Brazil, and Germany. The video, which you can view below, achieved an engagement rate of 22.4% and as the Education New Zealand report notes, “we achieved quality/engaged awareness as demonstrated by the high view-through rate of 24.5%.”

An engagement is represented in actions including a like, a comment, a share, a retweet, or a click; a view-through is when a user watches an entire video from start to end. As you can see here, the metrics Education New Zealand’s video campaign achieved are very impressive.

There was also a summer campaign that ran only in China, which reached more than 11 million people and prompted 22,948 to engage with the video.

And then in November/December, the video went out again in the UK, Vietnam, and Indonesia, this time reaching more than 55 million people and achieving a view-through rate of 33.8% and an engagement rate of 29.4%.

New priorities

New Zealand’s International Education Strategy 2019–2032 emphasises:

  • A focus on enrolling a high quality of students rather than a great number of students;
  • Enrolling more students across regions;
  • Attracting more students to study at higher levels of education.

So far the plan has resulted in a decrease in international students since 2016 but an increase in tuition revenues, as well as an increase in the number of students pursuing master’s degrees.

International student enrolments and tuition fees, 2013–2019. Source: Education New Zealand

The country has a long-term strategic Recovery Plan for International Education, the budget for which is NZD$51.6 million from New Zealand’s overall COVID Recovery and Response Fund.

Beginning this April, New Zealand will allow a cohort of up to 1,000 international students to return to their studies in the country.

For additional background, please see:


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