Export education is finally centre stage

December 2011

MICHELLE WAITZMAN looks at how the new Crown agency dedicated to export education came to fruition and what it aims to achieve.

What began over 20 years ago as a small industry led by a few daring and entrepreneurial institutions has since developed into one of New Zealand’s most significant export industries. These days, export education is so important to our country that the government has stepped up its support for the industry with the creation of a new Crown agency entirely devoted to attracting international students.

The government has always been involved in the industry, but this involvement has been scattered among a range of agencies and agreements.

In 1988, New Zealand Education International Limited (NZEIL) was established as an Education Joint Action Group and a subsidiary of the New Zealand Trade Development Board. The group became a subscription-based industry body in 1998, and changed its name the following year to Education New Zealand Trust (ENZ).

Trade New Zealand (now New Zealand Trade and Enterprise – NZTE) formed a partnership with Education New Zealand in 2000, providing offshore marketing services on a cost-recovery basis. In 2006, the government began funding the services provided to ENZ.

In 2003, Education New Zealand (ENZ) became a pan-industry body. The same year, the government introduced the mandatory Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students, which is regulated by the Ministry of Education. In 2006, the ministry introduced an export education levy to provide additional funding to both ENZ and the Code of Practice office.

The Ministry of Education’s International Division has also had the responsibility for diplomatic work between New Zealand and other governments, resulting in a range of educational agreements around the globe.

These combined efforts have built up an industry that is now worth around $2.5 billion per year to New Zealand’s economy. It’s an industry that has expanded its reach from a couple of dominant markets in north Asia, to attract students from 168 different countries last year. It’s an industry that provides around 32,000 jobs for New Zealanders. In other words, it’s an industry we want to keep strong and successful.

The new Crown agency, which will adopt the name Education New Zealand, is tasked to grow export education through both promotional and diplomatic means. Among its functions will be:

  • supporting the government’s international education strategy;
  • maintaining and developing the successful New Zealand Educated brand;
  • marketing offshore through education fairs, agent workshops, in-market advertising and PR;
  • training and accrediting education agents in key markets, and ensuring they work to a high ethical standard;
  • liaising with government representatives offshore to establish and maintain strong educational relationships in key countries;
  • promoting New Zealand online through web portals, mobile content and campaigns designed to actively engage students, their parents and education agents;
  • facilitating industry groups and individual institutions seeking to promote themselves offshore at a variety of events;
  • managing New Zealand government-funded scholarships for incoming international students;
  • providing relevant research and professional development opportunities for the industry;
  • building networks with international alumni who can act as ambassadors for education in New Zealand.

The agency will be staffed by current Education New Zealand Trust staff, plus onshore and offshore members of the Ministry of Education’s International Division (not including the policy and Code of Practice areas) and several offshore staff currently employed by NZTE.

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, will appoint the agency’s chair and board ahead of the September launch. The agency will be working closely with other key government departments such as Immigration New Zealand and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to maximise cooperation for the best results.

After committing to the new agency, the government also backed it up with $40 million dollars of additional funding over four years. This will supplement the funding streams being redirected to the agency from the Ministry of Education and NZTE, as well as the export education levy funding.

It may have taken two decades or more, but it seems clear the government is getting serious about promoting and supporting the export education industry in New Zealand.

At the upcoming New Zealand International Education Conference, taking place at Sky City in Auckland on 11 to 12 August, the government will be fronting up to industry members and discussing plans for the future. Among the speakers are the Minister for Tertiary Education and Nigel Bickle, deputy chief executive of Immigration New Zealand. Several of the NZTE offshore staff whose positions will be transferring to the agency will also be on hand to give presentations about their markets and catch up with industry representatives. Even the Prime Minister is planning to make an appearance.

Education New Zealand (and formerly NZEIL) has been hosting the conference for 20 years, and it has become the largest gathering of export education professionals in the country. Education New Zealand will be taking the opportunity to celebrate its accomplishments as an industry body ahead of the Crown agency launch.

This September, the spring will herald a new era in New Zealand’s export education industry. If all goes to plan it will be an era of growth and expansion for the benefit of our nation’s educational institutions, the national economy, and the globalisation of our communities.

Michelle Waitzman is communications officer for Education New Zealand.