International learners stay cool on studying Down Under

New Zealand now perceived poorly on factors where it used to excel, survey finds

March 24, 2022
Orakei, Auckland, New Zealand. Pictures of teddy bears in bus shelter electronic billboard for the New Zealand Bear hunt to help keep children entertained during the coronavirus lockdown
Source: iStock
Orakei, Auckland, New Zealand. Pictures of teddy bears in bus shelter electronic billboard for the New Zealand Bear hunt to help keep children entertained during the coronavirus lockdown

Closed borders and mixed messages have coloured international students’ perceptions of Antipodean education, with Australia and particularly New Zealand faring poorly in a new survey by services giant IDP.

New Zealand ranked last among the major English-speaking education destinations on five critical criteria that help shape intending students’ choices, in the survey of more than 10,000 people from 93 countries.

Australia rated reasonably well on some attributes but was second-worst on the key factors of educational quality and value for money.

IDP said people considering overseas study now expected open borders and had lost patience with countries where they remained closed. “Students have grown tired of waiting to return,” said chief executive Andrew Barkla.

“No one…believed that the flow of students…was like a tap that could be turned off without impacting on international student perceptions.”

The findings suggest that the US, the UK and Australia have regained some of the market share lost to Canada during the pandemic. But New Zealand remains in distant fifth spot, nominated as first-choice destination by just 4 per cent of international students – equalling its score in a survey last year by IDP’s recruitment subsidiary, IDP Connect.

Australia tied third with the UK as preferred destination of 19 per cent of students. Canada topped the table with 27 per cent, followed by the US with 20 per cent.

Australia mostly reopened its borders to international students in mid-December after a series of false starts and postponed pilots. New Zealand, where Omicron outbreaks have also forced deferrals, now plans to begin admitting foreign students from mid-April – although many will have to wait another six months.

New Zealand now rates below Australia on perceptions of visa policies, graduate work opportunities and – somewhat surprisingly – welfare, even though Wellington made overseas students eligible for benefits at the height of the pandemic, in contrast to Canberra’s position that they should “go home”.

New Zealand ranked below its anglophone competitors on a host of other attributes including opportunities for career development and professional networking. It also ranked behind continental European and Asian competitor countries on education quality, industry expertise, social networking opportunities and the prestige of its qualifications.

However, New Zealand was considered a promising place for migration opportunities, pipped only by Canada.

While Australia’s results were somewhat better, Mr Barkla said they still made “sobering” reading. It lagged behind the US, the UK and Canada on perceptions of education quality, particularly among Indian and Chinese respondents.

And while students perceived Australia to have good post-study work rights, few said they had been swayed by policy changes such as Canberra’s decision to extend the period that master’s graduates were permitted to stay.

Mr Barkla said perceptions were relatively favourable in the large south-east Asian nations of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. But Australia needed to “reinforce a collective message around the world that it is open and welcoming students”.

“Institutions have continued to innovate and put students at the centre. By forging ahead with these positives, adopting data-informed strategies and working with trusted partners on the ground, Australian institutions have a real opportunity to turn the tide,” he said.

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