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March 29, 2015 | by  | in Homepage News | [ssba]

Cost vs Quality: Are universities milking international students?

New Zealand is becoming an increasingly popular destination for international students, with overseas students making up 12.3 per cent of Vic enrolments this year.

Radio New Zealand reported a 12 per cent increase in international students in 2014 compared to 2013. Of the international students who arrived in New Zealand five to six years ago, 37 per cent have stayed in New Zealand for work.

As well as this, in the 2013-14 financial year 42 per cent of skilled migrants were previously international students in New Zealand.

Education New Zealand Chief Executive Grant McPherson said that the priorities of international students are changing, with employment and immigration becoming more important. Although Mr McPherson insisted that international education providers were not necessarily a pathway to employment in New Zealand, he maintained it was still “a pathway people will think about and explore”.

A representative from the newly-formed VUWSA International Students’ Representative Group (VISRG) agreed that a significant number of international students are currently interested in staying in New Zealand after study.

VISRG pointed out that some international students aim to migrate to New Zealand in order to escape a the a cycle of poverty. Their goals are to integrate with New Zealand society and aid the economy of New Zealand by filling shortages in the skilled job market.

A total of 93,000 international students came to New Zealand in the first eight months of last year alone, with their total spending reaching an estimated $2.8 billion a year.

However, Tertiary Education Union President Sandra Grey expressed her dissatisfaction with the way that institutions were compressing courses in an attempt to suit foreign students.

“This is where the market is driving teaching and learning,” Grey said.

VUWSA President Rick Zwaan was quick to note that market-driven courses were not in and of themselves an issue, but said it was important that academic integrity was maintained in the face of growing profit-interest.

A spokesperson from the University told Salient that international students have the same access to career services and orientation programmes as domestic students, which “helps students adjust to life in Wellington” and equips them for job opportunities.

However, the University declined to comment on whether a focus on courses for international students was fostering profit over teaching and learning.

Others have expressed concerns about the impact of international students on the future job prospects for domestic graduates.

NZ First MP Winston Peters criticised international students as being “unfair competition” for Kiwi workers.

“Student visas should not be used to flood the job market, drive down wages and undermine conditions and increase the already record number of permanent immigrants.”

Zwaan was quick to dismiss Peters’ claims, saying “international students add a whole lot of value to the university and New Zealand as a whole so it’s quite xenophobic to say ‘let’s not’.”

Zwaan said the University was openly developing programmes catered specifically to overseas students.

“I don’t think there’s anything necessarily bad about us attracting more international students as long as we look after them when they get here.”


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