New Zealand’s eight universities have reported 9.8% growth in the number of international student enrolments in 2018 when compared with 2017, an analysis has shown. Overall in 2018, international students studying at university contributed an estimated NZ$1.2 billion to the economy.

As education minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged late last year, “This is the first time in the last six years that the university sector has become the largest sector for international students.”

A new analysis of the benchmark by education marketing consultants Studymove has revealed that of the 30,007 total international enrolments in 2018, 38% were undergraduate students, 26% were postgraduate students, 17% were study abroad students, 9% were research students and 10% were exchange students.

The analysis also revealed that the eight New Zealand universities generated aggregate revenue of $492.8 million from international student fees (on-campus) in 2018, with all universities reporting an increment in revenue against the previous year.

“In aggregate, universities reported an increase of 13.9% in revenue in comparison with 2017,” the analysis read.

“After combining the results in revenue, international student enrolments and cost of living we can estimate that the 30,007 international students studying at New Zealand universities contributed $1.2 billion to the New Zealand economy during 2018.

“This figure confirms that the university sector provides the largest amount of international student fee revenue within the New Zealand international education industry,” it concluded.

Education agents continue to play an important role in the recruitment cycle, with the average proportion of students via agents for this group of universities reaching 44.5%.

In terms of commission, the analysis showed that universities paid around 4.6% of revenue income in commission to agents, compared with 4.2% in 2017.

“In the last five years, New Zealand universities [have] increased their engagement with education agents,” managing director of Studymove, Keri Ramirez told The PIE News.

He noted that in the past five years, New Zealand universities have changed their recruitment efforts “significantly”.

“When we started this project the main focus among New Zealand universities was on attracting “semester abroad” students mainly from Europe and the US,” he said.

“But in the last few years, universities decided to expand this approach and showcase the benefits of their education programs to undergraduate and postgraduate international candidates from other traditional markets such as China and India.

“This shift has been well received and as a result, New Zealand universities – and New Zealand as a country – are welcoming a larger number of international student enrolments and have benefited from a more diverse composition of nationalities,” he added.

All universities reported the nationality of a total of 12,768 international students from more than 100 countries in 2018, with China representing 34.6% of the total.

The US, India, Malaysia and Vietnam followed, representing a combined 34.5% of the total.

Market manager (South Asia) at the University of Waikato, Ashish Suri, told The PIE that one of the key reasons more Indian students have been choosing New Zealand in recent years has been the availability of the three-year post-study work visa for eligible students.

Suri said that Waikato has seen growth due to it being part of New Zealand’s ‘Golden Triangle’, an area bound by Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga that makes up over half of the country’s GDP and fills more than 50% of all jobs in the country.

“Living cost in Hamilton are significantly lower compared to other cities such as Auckland & Wellington,” he added.

In addition to inbound figures, Studymove’s analysis assessed the international mobility strategies implemented by all New Zealand universities.

Combining New Zealand citizens and international students from all academic levels, the eight universities reported an aggregate of 2,993 students who participated in outbound mobility programs during 2018 in comparison with 2,789 students in 2017.

In aggregate, all universities reported that 7.2% of students in New Zealand participated in an outbound mobility program during their degree in 2018, compared with 6.4% in 2017.

The top five study destinations for students in undergraduate and graduate programs in 2018 were the US, Australia, China, UK and Japan.