30 Oct 2017

Universities work to attract Indian students

10:34 am on 30 October 2017

Universities are confident they can get a slice of the boom in Indian student enrolments without the fraud and other problems that have accompanied Indian enrolments at other institutions.

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Photo: 123rf

The eight universities missed out on the soaring Indian enrolments of the past three or four years but they are now working together to attract more Indian students.

Last year universities had 1250 full-time equivalent Indian students, about the same number as in 2010 though numbers fluctuated between those years.

Polytechnics in contrast had 7475 Indian students in 2016, more than twice as many as in 2010, and most of that growth happened in 2015 alone when numbers jumped by 2695.

The director of Universities New Zealand, Chris Whelan, said universities had missed out on the Indian boom because they did not have a strong profile in India and many students had been focused on doing one-year courses that would help them gain permanent residence here.

"New Zealand hasn't necessarily been well understood as a destination for high-quality degree-level education and many Indian employers have never really heard of New Zealand and don't know much about its qualification. Our job is really to turn that around," he said.

Mr Whelan said the universities were working together to promote themselves in India and he expected enrolments would start increasing as early as next year.

"A lot of our work is going to be really talking to some of the agents who provide advice to young people about where to study, to schools that traditionally a lot of these kids are coming out of and who are going to be studying abroad, but also just growing that general awareness of the New Zealand education system among Indian business."

Mr Whelan said universities would not run into the problems with student visa fraud and poor quality students that had affected other institutions because they had high entry standards.

"We certainly haven't seen in any other market issues around quality because in general you're coming for a three- or four-year degree here, you have to pass those high quality entry standards. We just haven't seen the sorts of issues that have appeared in other parts of the education system."

The education spokesperson for the India Trade Alliance, Edwin Paul, said it was unlikely universities would attract the sort of students that had caused concern for Immigration New Zealand.

"That's a completely different category of student. Most of the fraud that New Zealand has faced has been in the private education sector where students are trying to use a diploma-level qualification as a pathway for immigration," Mr Paul said.

"Also, the entry criteria for universities are quite rigid. Those who make the cut for universities are usually not from the risk bandwidth.

However, an immigration advisor and student agent, Munish Sekhri, said immigration rules that required students to prove they had enough money to support themselves might cause problems for universities.

"Any applicant from India has to show funds, liquid funds, which have been in their accounts for about six months, and Immigration New Zealand does not recognise the recent sale of land or gold so that could be a deterrent," he said.

"The student is going to pay very high fees compared to other providers and at the same time if they have to seal the funds in their accounts for six months or so they might as well spend that money in Australia or Canada, which do not have a requirement for old funds."

Mr Sekhri said there was huge scope for universities to increase their Indian enrolments but they would need to work with more agents than they currently did.

However, Mr Paul said the universities should not become dependent on agents and would be better off working through an intermediary business that could represent them collectively.

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