NZ positioned for exponential international education growth

New Zealand is already known for punching above its weight when it comes to rugby prowess and stunning scenery. And it will soon prove a worthy global contender in the international education sector, with the New Zealand government targeting a 25% increase in the value of this sector to its economy by 2025.

International education is already New Zealand’s fourth largest export, and in 2015 124,000 international students chose to study in this Pacific nation. But scaling up to a NZ$5billion market will require an investment in agent relationships and student admission systems, as the presentations at this year’s NZIEC revealed in August.

In preparation for our first venture into this important market as an exhibitor at New Zealand’s annual international education conference, we carried out a survey in July. We wanted to understand what advantages New Zealand already offers international students, and what their admissions experience is like today. And the best place to find out is from the people who talk to those students every day – the international agents already working with this market.

Security and stability attract more students

In good news for New Zealand, achieving that level of growth may be quite straightforward. 61% of the 92 agents who responded have seen a surge in enquiries into studying in New Zealand, and 78% anticipate the number of students applying to increase over the next two years.

They cite safety (72.8%), quality of education (67.4%) and value for money/cost of living (56.5%) as the main reason New Zealand is increasing in popularity.

NZIEC delegates also expect the growing Chinese middle class will fuel growth – but it’s worth noting they will be recruiting in an increasingly competitive global market, including the rapid expansion of opportunities at home.

China already provides 40% of New Zealand’s international students at university, according to Adele Bryant of ThinkNew. She also noted China has 318 million millennials – but Chinese study abroad student numbers are forecast to peak at 700,000-800,000 in 2022.

Admissions will need to scale with demand

With this in mind, there is work to be done. One of the biggest hurdles for New Zealand institutions is streamlining admissions management in advance of increased demand. International agents told us of their frustrations with application turnaround time in New Zealand (42.4%) and the inability to check the status of applications (27.2%), along with poor communication (16.3%).

These are all issues we’ve seen and dealt with before in Australia. Through Studylink Connect, with our cloud-based admissions platform, providers reduce data entry and workload, and improve turnaround time, compliance and communication. A third of Australia’s higher education providers now use the system.

In just two examples, University of South Australia recently cut turnaround time from up to six weeks to as little as 48 hours, while Western Sydney University slashed its turnaround from 10 working days to three – while at the same time increasing the number of acceptances.

Just as we’ve seen in the digital transformation of other industries, an efficient paperless workflow system is fundamental for scalable growth. One that also captures and analyses valuable data and provides performance reporting is a competitive advantage.

Easier for agents, improved student outcomes

The agents we surveyed are just a representation of the 6,800 who use StudyLink Connect globally. They told us that when institutions implement our platform, turnaround time improves, as does communication between provider and agent. They also have increased visibility over the application process, and it cuts data entry.

These factors will also become even more important as New Zealand seeks to scale the number of students who apply, and successfully study, in its higher education system.

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200,000 applications submitted on StudyLink in 2018