By Brierley Penn
“China remains our major market in education, but we are not at our peak,” according to Charles Finny, Chairman of Education NZ. In the past, New Zealand’s market for inbound students from China had followed a boom and bust cycle, with the latest peak around the 2002-03 period. Finny said that his organization was trying very hard to ensure that this is not the pattern of the future, hoping instead to see an increase that is consistent year on year. “These busts have occurred because we [NZ] have dropped the ball on the quality front,” Finny said at the 2013 China Business Summit. “After each bust we have had to invest a lot of effort for NZ Inc to rebuild.”
The industry for inbound Chinese students was created in the late 1980s, and now represents a highly lucrative market for our educational institutions. To grow this further, Finny suggested that policy alignment with key agencies like Immigration NZ will be important for his organisation.
He also highlighted that we have a huge opportunity inside China that is not just about inbound students. He noted we had a world-renowned education system, with all of our universities in the top 5 per cent, some in the top 3 per cent, and our polytechnics being world leaders in their field. “The Chinese want to import that model,” Finny said. However, he also recognizes an enormous threat to that education export opportunity, and that is New Zealand’s internal message on education. There is intense monitoring of everything that’s happening in NZ within China, and the New Zealand media at the time focused on the negative 15 per cent of what was going on in our education system, to the expense of the hugely positive 85 per cent.