5 Apr 2018

Big variations in foreign student enrolments

1:32 pm on 5 April 2018

Tertiary institutions are blaming immigration policies for big swings in foreign student enrolments that are likely to cost millions of dollars this year.

A young man in a classroom, writing, in a file photo to illustrate foreign students.

Photo: 123RF

Some institutions are reporting significant falls in foreign student numbers, while others are enjoying strong growth.

The biggest decreases were reported by Toi Ohomai in Bay of Plenty and Rotorua, Unitec in Auckland, and Weltec and Whitireia in Wellington, where full-time equivalent foreign student enrolments were between 14 and 27 percent lower than at the same time last year.

The institutions said uncertainty in the Indian and Chinese markets about immigration rules were behind the fall.

But other polytechnics bucked the trend.

Otago Polytechnic said it had 233 more full-time equivalent foreign students than at the same time last year, an increase of 31 percent.

The polytechnic's communications manager, Mike Waddell, said many of the foreign students were enrolled at the polytechnic's Auckland campus and the increase had come mostly from China.

At the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in Hawke's Bay, chief executive Chris Collins said there were about 100 more full-time international students than at the same time last year, an increase of 20 percent.

"In terms of the market, India's flat and maybe just a little bit softer, but certainly growth out of China and of course we've been trying to diversity our strategy across other countries and that's come through reasonably strongly for us," he said.

Mr Collins said the foreign enrolments were focused on graduate and postgraduate courses and that had probably protected EIT from the downturn hitting other institutions that had been more focused on foreign enrolments in certificate and diploma courses.

Unitec Campus in Mt Albert

The biggest decreases were reported by Unitec in Auckland, Toi Ohomai in Bay of Plenty and Rotorua, and Weltec and Whitireia in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Chris Whelan from Universities New Zealand said most universities were seeing small increases in their student numbers, especially among international students.

"China is far and away the largest source of students. We're seeing probably small increases in countries like India where the university sector has been a lot more active recently and we're also starting to see more students coming through from Latin America where again the university sector has been promoting itself a lot more."

Mr Whelan said immigration rules could be a factor for in the growth.

"It's got a lot harder with a sub-degree qualification to get work rights and the right to settle in New Zealand, so it may well be that there's a few of those students who would have looked at a polytechnic in the past who are now thinking about a university," he said.

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