New push to lure foreign students

A grassroots groundswell to bring more international students to Manawatu is surging ahead, hot on the heels of a Government shake-up of overseas student growth strategies.

City leaders and educational institutes have joined forces to entice international students to Palmerston North.

This aligns closely with the Government this week launching a package of programmes aimed at growing New Zealand's $2.6 billion international education sector.

A group of Palmerston North's economic development drivers, including the city council, Destination Manawatu, Vision Manawatu, and businesses, already have several strategies in the pipeline.

Destination Manawatu chief executive Lance Bickford said more needed to be done to attract and retain international students.

City council head of strategy and policy Neil Miller said a draft strategy was expected to result in an action plan, including a series of projects, within a year. It could include shared marketing systems, pooling income, investments and exports, and a more streamlined thought process into what techniques best targeted overseas students.

A plan is being sent out within four weeks for institutes to finalise roles, as well as long-term plans.

"There's no point waiting around," Mr Miller said.

"We know there are opportunities for us to attract more foreign students and we know we can do that together by pooling resources," he said.

"At the moment there's a consensus, but the trick is to turn that into a concrete plan of action."

The more shared support put in place, the greater the outcome would be, he said.

"The target is to obviously attract more students into our secondary and tertiary institutes because they provide a good deal of return and investment in the local economy."

On average, foreign fee-paying students spend $6500 on tuition and $17,600 on living costs, with many students staying on to fill job shortages in the city.

The draft strategy was pragmatic and involved a great deal of trial and error to find out what worked best in today's fluid, fiscal international student market, Mr Miller said.

Several Palmerston North tertiary-level providers, as well as a handful of high schools, have registered interest in it.

Among them are Massey University, UCOL, International Pacific College, and Palmerston North Boys', Girls', Freyberg, and Awatapu high schools.

UCOL executive dean of international relations Julia Pedley said growing export income through education, as well as increasing the number of international students, was a priority.

"We are supportive of any initiative to attract international students to our region and will continue to work with the city council, as well as other education providers in the area," she said.

Also, as part of this year's Budget, the Government is investing $40 million over the next four years in marketing and promoting New Zealand's international education industry.

Manawatu Standard