Sharp rise in international students, but mobility falls

All eight of New Zealand’s universities reported growth in international student numbers in 2016 and in revenue generated from international students’ fees, the second international benchmark study for New Zealand reveals.

But the reported data suggests a sharp drop of more than 25% in the number of undergraduate students participating in outbound mobility programmes, although there are question marks about the completeness of that data.

This annual report, developed by education marketing consultancy Studymove and made public this month, provides New Zealand universities with a detailed analysis of the impact of their internationalisation strategies at the national and individual university level.

In 2016 the eight universities reported an aggregate of 26,442 international student enrolments, an increase of 10.3% on the year before.

The eight universities generated an aggregate revenue of NZ$391.3 million (US$289 million) from international student fees (on campus) in 2016. In aggregate universities reported an increase of 7.9% in revenue compared with 2015.

In total international student enrolments and cost of living contributed an estimated NZ$1.1 billion (US$812 million) to the New Zealand economy during 2016.

Keri Ramirez, managing director of Studymove, told University World News that the research shows that the overall increment came directly from growing the top source markets.

“All top five source markets, China, the USA, India, Malaysia and Japan, had positive growth in comparison with the previous year.

“Also, an interesting result is that eight out of the eight universities reported growth in international student enrolments, which in my opinion is a remarkable result and indicates a positive reaction to the overall strategy implemented by New Zealand universities and the New Zealand government.”

Ramirez said, however, that the strategy is just one of several factors that may have influenced the increase in student recruitment.

These include the market conditions, with New Zealand “not only perceived as a quality study destination for higher education” but also highlighted as a “safe place to study”.

“For a segment of the international student market, the topic and element of safety has been quite attractive when deciding where to study,” he said.

New Zealand universities and the New Zealand government through Education New Zealand have been executing a range of strategies to enhance the awareness of the New Zealand brand in important markets such as the US, he added.

“It seems that this is also creating a positive impact in the overall recruitment strategy for New Zealand.”

Ramirez said another interesting metric from the study was the increment in the number of students recruited via agents compared to the previous year.

When asked to explain the sharp drop in undergraduate outbound mobility participation, he said the rate may be the same as last year but not reported accurately because the majority of universities “reported difficulties in capturing accurate data for this section of the report”.

Similar share to Australia

The report found that of the total international student enrolments in 2016, 46% were undergraduate students, 19% were postgraduate students, 18% were research students, 14% were study abroad and exchange students and 3% were unknown.

International students accounted for 16% of the 166,687 student enrolments on New Zealand’s eight university campuses. The report said this share was similar to that found in Australian universities.

All eight universities reported that international students on their campus came from 57 countries.

The largest source country was China with 4,644 international students, or 36.6% of the total, followed by the United States, India, Malaysia and Japan, together representing 30.4% of the total. The top five markets accounted for 67.1% of the total in 2016.

The top regions for the recruitment of international students in aggregate were Northeast Asia (43%), Americas (19.4%) and Southeast Asia (11.4%).

Among the seven universities which provided information on the number of students recruited by agents, in 2016 the average share of students recruited via agents was 38.7%. Universities invested 3.7% of their total generated revenue in commissions to education agents – the equivalent of paying NZ$1,234 in commission for every international student commencement in 2016.

Outbound mobility drops

The eight universities reported an aggregate of 2,874 students participating in outbound mobility programmes in 2016 compared with 2,551 in 2015. The 2016 figure includes New Zealand citizens and international students from all academic levels and includes credit and non-credit outbound mobility programmes. Some 86.7% of the total were undergraduate students and 12.9% were postgraduate students.

In aggregate the eight universities reported a participation rate of 4.3% during 2016, a slight drop on the 4.8% recorded for all students in 2015. But for undergraduate students the aggregate participation rate was significantly down, at 6.1% compared to 8.5% in 2015.

In 2016 the top five reported destinations for outbound mobility programmes (undergraduate and graduate) were the US, United Kingdom, China, Canada and Australia. These were followed by Japan, ‘do not know/other’, Netherlands, France, South Korea, Singapore, India, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malta, Samoa and ‘multi-destination’.

The top five destinations represented 44% of the total and the top 25 made up 87% of all destinations in 2016.

When grouped by regions, Europe was the most popular region for outbound mobility students, with an aggregate 32.7% share, followed by Asia with 29.1%, North America 20.3% and Oceania 8.6%.

Some 76.9% of outbound mobility programme students obtained academic credits during their visit.

Among the seven universities reporting on outbound mobility programme numbers, in 2016 the top five fields of study for undergraduate and postgraduate students were management and commerce (25.7%), society and culture (22.6%), health (14.0%), engineering and related technologies (10.4%) and natural and physical sciences (8.2%).

Females more outwardly mobile

Similar to Australia and the US, significantly more female students participated in outbound mobility programmes than males in both 2015 and 2016, the report said.

In 2016, from seven universities reporting, 57% of students were female and 41% were male, while 2% were of unknown gender.

Across eight universities mid-length programmes (one semester) were the most popular (48.9%), while 40.2% took short-term programmes and 7.5% participated in long-term programmes.

The types of programme included exchanges, internships/ placements/practical training, volunteering, research, conferences, and language programmes. By far the most popular category of programme was internships/placements/practical training (41.4%) followed by exchange programmes (17%).

Six universities indicated that they receive funding via the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia and Latin America to support participation in outbound mobility programmes.

Two universities reported that they do not receive any private funding and three reported that this question did not apply to their university. Only two universities reported that they did receive some funding from private sources and that varied from NZ$17,000 to NZ$20,000.

Five universities reported on the amount of funding provided by the university or by faculties for outbound international mobility in general and one reported on how much university funding was allocated to exchanges. The amount of such funding varied from NZ$20,000 to NZ$300,000.