NEW ZEALAND: Low dollar fuels foreign enrolments

The global recession may have a pay-off for New Zealand, with the low value of the country's dollar apparently fuelling an increase in enrolments by international students.

With New Zealand's academic year set to begin in March, universities have indicated their applications from new international students are up by as much as 20%. They are now hoping those applications will turn into actual enrolments.

Robert Stevens, Chief Executive of Education New Zealand, the body responsible for promoting New Zealand as an education destination, said there were early indications of increased international enrolments in all parts of the education sector, apart from primary schools.

Stevens said a big drop in the value of the Kiwi dollar was helping enrolments. It was currently worth about US$0.50, down from $US0.80 at the same time last year. He said New Zealand could benefit from the combination of a global recession and low dollar.

Many people in countries such as China, India and Saudi Arabia, that lacked the infrastructure to provide quality education for all their young people, did not see education as discretionary spending. Faced with an economic downturn they would not stop spending on education but they would look for good value for their money.

The indications of a 2009 enrolment increase followed new figures published earlier this month that showed New Zealand enjoyed a 16% increase in new international enrolments in the 12 months to July last year.

Within those figures were big increases in the number of new Indian and Chinese students. This follows several years of decline in overall student numbers caused by a steep drop in enrolments by Chinese students.

* John Gerritsen is editor of NZ Education Review.