Universities are hoping partnerships with foreign institutions will help their international student enrolments recover when border restrictions are eventually lifted.
They say there is a trend away from using agents to sign up as many students as possible.
Massey University recently announced a joint institute in China with the Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, where up to 1200 students could work toward Massey degrees without ever coming to New Zealand.
The university's deputy vice-chancellor students and global engagement, Tere McGonagle-Daly, said the pandemic had shown that universities needed to broaden the ways they enrolled students.
"It's really about diversifying the type of international student that studies with and giving them choice because some international students would love to study in New Zealand, some students would love to study at home and do a New Zealand programme and we're trying to make sure we get a good combination of the two as opposed to putting all of our programmes into a single option for students," McGonagle-Daly said.
The joint institute had not required any capital investment by Massey in China because the Nanjing university already had its own buildings, he said.
Victoria University recently announced a partnership allowing students who study two years at the Vidyalankar School of Information and Technology in Mumbai to study for two more years at Victoria and get a Victoria degree communications.
The university's deputy vice-chancellor of engagement, Blair McRae, said such deals were becoming increasingly common.
"The world's sort of moved away from universities going away and working with agents and collecting as many students as they possibly can through the agents that operate across the world to more partnership-type arrangements," he said.
"We know we will get far better dividend from our investment by teaming up with like-minded organisations."
It was too early to estimate how many students might come to New Zealand through the partnership, McRae said.
Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan said partnerships with foreign universities were especially important as universities tried to rebuild their international student numbers once the borders reopened.
"We have on our records about 50 different arrangements between our eight universities and covering up to about 1300 students a year. Now that number is continuing to grow, this is a pretty normal trend internationally at the moment," he said.
Most partnership agreements allowed students to do a year or two of study in their home country and a year or two in New Zealand and that suited a lot of students, he said.
"Most international students, they really want the experience of living and if possible working overseas for a period of time, but they don't necessarily want to spend all three or four years of their degree actually living overseas. If they can do a couple of years overseas and a couple at home that's great and that's becoming increasingly popular and more and more universities are offering that as an option."
The partnership agreements covered a variety of countries including the United States, but most involved institutions in Asia, he said.
Overseas campuses were not common but their number was growing, he said.
"They tend to be quite expensive, they tend to be high-risk and you've got to be pretty certain about the demand from your students before you want to invest too much in those kinds of campuses."
Overseas campuses were not solely about increasing university revenue as they also provided a place for New Zealand students to study and could become a source of postgraduate students, Whelan said.
Last year, all eight universities entered an agreement allowing students to complete their first year of study at NCUK, an organisation with campuses in 29 countries, before coming to New Zealand.
Whelan said the arrangement would make a big difference for students.
"It will make quite a difference for students that are currently stuck off shore. It'll allow them to basically start their studies with a high degree of confidence that they'll be able to get here once they've finished that first year," Whelan said.
Such arrangements helped ensure students were well-prepared for study in New Zealand, he said.