International students coming back to city

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2014

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International student numbers are starting to climb again in post-quake Christchurch.

There were 5926 international students in Canterbury in the first eight months of 2013 compared to 5653 in all of 2012. But there is still a long way to go before enrolments reach the more than 11,500 recorded before the earthquakes.

Despite tertiary providers offering scholarships to reduce cost as a barrier, current international students are bemoaning pricey fees as the main deterrent.

Christchurch Educated - a group established using a four-year $5 million investment after the earthquakes - has tasked Richard Ashmore with leading a one-year pilot programme to understand what influences international students to stay in Canterbury.

He will focus on "promoting the quality and variety of Canterbury tertiary study options on offer". He wants to ensure international students move from secondary schools into local tertiary institutions.

He said one of the biggest challenges would be changing the attitudes of international students' parents, who may have predetermined ideas about their child's career path leading to overseas institutions.

Chinese student Wei Li, 20, said New Zealand was better known as a place to study at secondary rather than tertiary level.

He completed secondary school in Wellington, before moving to Christchurch to study the "famous" civil engineering course at Canterbury University.

It was "pretty cool" with a nice environment and people, but it was costing his family more than $37,000 a year in course fees and $20,000 on living costs, he said.

"That's a lot of money. We have so much pressure from home and from university because it's real easy to fail."

If he was not already halfway through his four-year degree, he would consider going to England where he understood international fees to be about half of those in New Zealand.

To attract more students like him, fees would need to be cheaper, and more support systems put in place for current students, he said.

Roy Cheung, 19, from Hong Kong, said studying in New Zealand was expensive.

But he chose to pay more than $18,000 a year for his Yoobee web development diploma because it meant he could complete his study in Canterbury, after joining Darfield High School at the age of 13.

Shunsuke Sakai said his fees, which were paid by his grandparents in Japan, were "quite high".

But the 20-year-old loved the garden city and felt its studying options were better for him than back home.

The Canterbury University bachelor of science student, who was still living with the host family who supported him through secondary school at Cashmere High, would likely carry on working here after completing study in two years.

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Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) international director Beth Knowles said international student numbers were looking "very healthy", and an increase on the better than budgeted 572 full time students last year.

The industry was "definitely picking up now", particularly within graduate and degree-level courses in project management, engineering, and information and technology.

"They're filling some really important skills shortages in New Zealand."

- The Press

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