“Mixed” recovery for New Zealand institutions

Published 15/05/2023

International student numbers have continued to increase in New Zealand since borders reopened in July 2022, but student visa rates are still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels.

Visa approvals for applicants to New Zealand’s universities exceeded pre-pandemic levels at the beginning of 2023, but other sectors remain lower than in 2019, according to new data.

The head of Education New Zealand has described the country’s recovery since borders reopened as “variable at best”.

“Even within the university sector, that on the face of it looks to have recovered better than others, the experience is mixed,” said Grant McPherson, the organisation’s CEO, in a statement.

“Within the [Private Training Establishments] and English language schools we have a long way to go to reach the levels of 2019 and early 2020.

“In such a highly competitive market, it is going to take some time to regain awareness with learners and overcome the head start other countries gained,” she added.

At the beginning of March 2023 there were nearly 34,000 international student visa holders in the country, compared to 125,000 in 2018.

The most common student nationalities were Chinese, Indian, South Korean and Japanese.

While Chinese students make up a greater proportion of visa approvals than they did pre-pandemic, the proportion of Indian student visa holders has decreased.

“We have a long way to go to reach the levels of 2019”

Data shared from the Study with New Zealand website suggests that interest in the country is growing as web traffic continues to increase, in part thanks to online campaigns by Education New Zealand.

In February, the top website user nationality was Indian, followed by Vietnamese, Brazilian, Thai and Japanese.

McPherson said that “tight” budgets would be a challenge to New Zealand’s recovery. “We need to focus our limited resources to where they have the greatest impact, and we need to be aligned as one with the sector,” he said, identifying India as a market “worthy of focus”.

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