The results of the 2018 Understanding New Zealanders’ perceptions of international education research survey have been released. Commissioned by Education New Zealand (ENZ), the Perceptions survey is undertaken annually and reflects New Zealanders’ attitudes towards international education.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • there is wide recognition among New Zealanders of the social, cultural and economic benefits that international education brings to New Zealand
  • an increasing proportion of New Zealanders believe that international education is benefitting New Zealand’s economy, education quality and industry
  • the most commonly perceived benefit of international education is tourism and recognition of this is growing
  • the benefits of cultural exchange are felt most strongly at a community level.

ENZ Chief Executive Grant McPherson is pleased with the results.

“The benefits of international education to New Zealand have become more widely recognised over the past year, at both a national and regional level,” he says.

“I believe these positive results demonstrate the many social, cultural and economic benefits international students bring to New Zealand, as well as the Government’s wide-ranging work to address issues the sector has faced.”

The 2018 survey content was based on existing survey questions from previous reports. However, a new set of questions around the challenges associated with international education was added to gain a more comprehensive understanding of New Zealanders’ perceptions.

McPherson says the most widely perceived challenges were the impact that international students (and their families) are having on public facilities and infrastructure, including housing, the job market, education and medical services, which are perceived as already strained. This perception was held strongest by New Zealanders living in Auckland.

“There has been a wide-ranging effort by Government to continually improve the international education system, though we need to better communicate that to Aucklanders.

“We want every region, and our cities, to feel they are benefiting from international education and that they will continue to welcome international students.”

Other demographic differences show that people of Asian descent are stronger supporters (for example, 28% agree that international education benefits New Zealand’s international networks and trading, compared to the 18% average) while Māori are less convinced of the benefits (for example, 18% disagree that international education contributes positively to the exchange of different perspectives in our classrooms, compared to the 10% average).

“As outlined in the New Zealand International Education Strategy 2018 – 2030, we are committed to the future of the sector focused on quality, sustainable growth and global citizenship,” says McPherson.

“We need to ensure that all New Zealanders feel the benefits of international education, for themselves, their families and their communities, including the many social and cultural, educational, economic and soft diplomacy benefits to New Zealand.”

An online panel of 1,000 New Zealanders participated in the survey. Participants were weighted by age, gender and region to be nationally representative. The survey took place in July 2018.

The report comes one week after the announcement of the 2017 economic valuation of the sector. International education is valued at $5.1 billion, supports more than 48,500 jobs and is New Zealand’s fourth largest export sector.

An infographic summary of the key findings is here.

The full Perceptions report is here.

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