In the wake of the New Zealand Government announcing it will start rolling out a free tertiary education policy from 2018, universities and academics are still unclear as to whether the government will fully compensate universities after scrapping fees. Many institutions are forecasting constrained budgets over the next few years, meaning that universities will need to find other sources of revenue. According to QS Enrolment Solutions, New Zealand universities should look to harness the opportunities presented by international students in order to address funding challenges.

In this year’s International Student Survey report – titled Harnessing Opportunities in Global Education – QS Enrolment Solutions recommends that now is the time for the Higher Education sector to develop a comprehensive program of engagement in key target markets to help promote international Higher Education as one of New Zealand’s greatest exports. Because international students pay full fees, if universities can grow their international student enrolments, this can reduce the impact of changes to funding.

Our annual report, for which we surveyed students from 193 countries who plan to study abroad, reached our largest ever global audience. With 67,172 individual responses – 28,859 who are looking to study in New Zealand and Australia – the survey found opportunities for growth that universities can use to tap into the international student market.

The International Student Survey shows that university choice is first and foremost driven by a student’s desired outcome after graduation, which is most likely to be career focused. Some other factors include teaching quality, overall student experience, affordability, and providing a safe environment for international students.

Universities should focus on providing high quality teaching and demonstrating this to international students. Universities should also focus on employability; providing tools such as work-integrated learning, internships, links with local industries and also transferability of qualifications to the students’ home markets.

The main challenge for universities in regional areas is awareness of the study destination. They face less choices of institutions compared to larger cities and are often seen to lack availability of part-time jobs while studying. For regional universities, the key driver is going to be availability of courses and the quality of the courses; they should also be looking at communicating to students some of the lifestyle advantages of living in a smaller city, such as an affordable cost of living and safety.

International students value a supportive and welcoming environment in whichever university they decide on; if a city has an established migrant community it is important to communicate this to international students as it will weigh heavily in their final decision.

Tim Renowden is Head of Market Insights for QS Enrolment Solutions

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