Big uptake in international students

3 minutes read
Posted 9 May, 2024
ABC College of English students take a break 1

ABC College of English is experiencing growing interest from students from the Philippines and Thailand

International student numbers are on the rise at local language schools amid a renewed interest to study English in beautiful surrounds.

LSNZ (Language Schools New Zealand) owner Guy Hughes says based on bookings so far for this year he’s projecting “an all time high” for the school of about 120 international language students.

His long-time school was back up to pre-Covid numbers by June last year after re-opening following the pandemic in September 2022. He says interest is now on the rise again and he’s predicting a roll of 100, similar to 2019, this month.

With strong bookings in place between now and August, Hughes says some people want to get overseas and see it as a great means to explore Queenstown while studying. “We’re getting students from all over the world,” he says. “Our top three would be Brazil, Japan and Thailand at the moment, mostly aged from 20 to 35.”

Recent visa changes are set to have a significant impact and Hughes expects students will study for longer and extend their stay. Visiting students can work for 20 hours a week to support themselves while they’re studying here until their visa runs out which is an added bonus, he says. If they’ve got a good position they will often stay on and work, adding to the available pool of workers needed locally, Hughes says.

At present he’s seeing a lot of interest from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, many of whom don’t need or want to work while they’re in Queenstown. However, most students from Latino countries are keen to work and support their study.

It’s a competitive industry and NZ is seen as a land of opportunity to some extent, with some students arriving from countries that are significantly worse off economically. “We’re attractive to them, and Queenstown especially is an awesome place to be,” he says.

To NZ’s advantage, Australia and Canada have recently made significant changes to their visa rules, tightening their criteria. NZ is also renowned for setting higher standards and having a tough regulatory system.

Hughes says the international student industry is a vital contributor to NZ’s economy so it’s great that numbers are coming back post-pandemic with the economic impact of the industry worth millions of dollars to Queenstown alone.

LSNZ has also re-opened its Christchurch language school in Cashel Street, 13 years after the 2011 earthquake and Hughes is hoping numbers there would’ve reached about 100 in a few months.

Queenstown’s ABC College of English international student recruitment manager Duncan Sadleir says student enrolments for this year are growing, despite increasing competition in the New Zealand marketplace. Some Auckland schools have been lowering their prices, but Queenstown schools focus heavily on quality and have the added attraction of being in a popular alpine resort, he says.

The close relationship between ABC and its owner, Queenstown Resort College, who share QRC’s central Queenstown campus site, also appeals to overseas students. There’s growing interest from students in Southeast Asia, The Philippines and Thailand, Sadlier says.

Otago University is also seeing an upward trend. Domestic student numbers were down in March on the same time last year, but international student numbers had increased.

University of Otago Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson says the University had expected a decline in domestic enrolments this year, but this would be offset by international growth. International enrolments were up by 35 in March, with some late arriving internationals still trailing in. It looked like the incoming cohort for Semester Two would also be up on last year.

“In the international sphere we have seen pleasing increases in single semester study abroad and postgraduate coursework enrolments,” Nicholson says. “On the other hand, we have had some challenges with late-arriving internationals due in some instances to delays with the issuing of visas.”

International education is a big contributor to the NZ economy. Research in 2018 showed the industry was worth just over $5 billion to NZ annually, making it the country's fourth-largest export earner. That was reportedly reduced dramatically to an estimated $0.8 billion by the pandemic in 2020 in a later report, which said the current economic impact had the potential to grow and could return to pre-pandemic levels by 2030.

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LSNZ English language students get to explore while also studying making the region a sought-after destination


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