Private providers need to step up

June 2010

 

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GEOFF VAUSE notes some of the initiatives coming from government, and underlines the need for the whole export education sector to build on the achievements

It takes more than inter-government agreements to build education links.

Private providers have to step up and play their part. Export education industry leaders have noted the need for cooperation between providers to ensure a growing slice of the international student market. This is needed across the sector, from high schools to private training providers to tertiary institutions.

International conferences play a part in this, and attendance by New Zealand’s providers are enhanced by formal agreements such as two signed recently.

Education Minister Anne Tolley and India’s Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal, concluded an agreement following talks in Delhi earlier this year. The agreement includes collaborative projects, open and distance learning, research cooperation, teacher education and development and quality assurance.

Tolley says India, with a population of 1.1 billion, is a key education market for New Zealand.

“A formal agreement such as this is a significant achievement for New Zealand considering the relative size and scale of our two nations, and is testament to our high quality education system,” Tolley says. New Zealand and India have also agreed to encourage the exchange of officials and personnel.

This agreement lends weight to New Zealand participation at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) conference held in New Delhi in November.

Education advisers attached to the New Zealand High Commission in India say the conferences are well attended by key influencers in the Indian system – public and private – and also by foreign representatives.

For those new to India the events usually provide an excellent overview of developments and issues occupying minds there. They tend to be great general networking opportunities, with time set aside for business-to-business marketing sessions.

Tolley and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Higher Education, Dr Khalid Bin Mohammed Al Ankary, also recently agreed to strengthen and increase New Zealand’s educational and science engagement with the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is now the fifth largest source of international students, worth an estimated $250 million each year. Many New Zealand education providers also have long-established links with Saudi Arabia for the delivery of education services there.

The agreement outlines the basis for New Zealand’s education engagement with Saudi Arabia over the next five years in the educational and scientific fields, in both the compulsory and tertiary sectors.

“This is a significant step for New Zealand. Relationships between our governments are a prerequisite for establishing and maintaining student numbers from Saudi Arabia, as well as creating opportunities for New Zealand consultancy firms to gain access to contracts within the Saudi education sector.”

Collaboration could include joint research projects, joint academic programmes and student and faculty exchanges particularly in the science, technology and medical fields.

The King Abdullah Scholarship programme started in 2007 attracting several thousand Saudi Arabian students to English language training, foundation studies in preparation for entry into degree courses, and undergraduate and postgraduate studies at New Zealand’s eight universities. There is also a large number of Saudi students studying English for short and long-term courses.

The Oman Ministry of Higher Education has sent government scholarship students to New Zealand since 2004, with students enrolled at most universities. The trend is toward enrolment in postgraduate and doctoral programmes.

The Bahrain Ministry of Education also sends a small number of students to Auckland each year for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and Kuwait is starting a government scholarship for students coming to New Zealand.

These initiatives are largely initiated by and developed at government level, and overseen by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Immigration New Zealand and the universities. They help set a high credibility level for export education branded by New Zealand.

Education New Zealand has not identified significant conferences in the Gulf States and is not expected to be presenting at any this year.

Secondary schools, the tertiary sector and private providers achieve more bang for the buck by combining at conferences, but the promotional work can’t be left to the same dynamic few. Networking prior to conferences and sharing initiatives and achievements at them and afterwards will translate into strengths benefiting the whole sector.

Education New Zealand can help identify which conferences have been set up largely as revenue-gathering exercises, and which are respected and used by government links and the industry.

Purpose-built New Zealand education fairs will be held in Malaysia in August, with the March event attracting 1200 visitors. The fourth, similar event to be held in Sri Lanka will be in September, involving a group of New Zealand Specialist Agents.

The second largest market for international students is still Korea, and a New Zealand education fair will be held in Seoul in October. Education New Zealand will be leading attendance at the CCIEE China Fair, also in October.