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Market for fee-paying Chinese students at risk

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Market for fee-paying Chinese students at risk

The government’s proposed changes to university councils will make it harder for New Zealand institutions to attract full fee-paying international students, says a Massey University academic.

Professor Frank Sligo, director of stakeholder relationships within Massey’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, says those recruiting in China are concerned about the negative impact the Education Amendment Bill might have on their work.

“Those of us with experience in overseas recruiting in China worry about what will happen when the perception enters Chinese social media that the New Zealand government is increasing its control over our universities,” he says.

Professor Sligo says Chinese students are carefully counselled by their lecturers on where they should go to continue their study outside of China.

“These academic mentors in China make it clear to students that they will get a different kind of education in New Zealand. I have heard them say this in Chinese classrooms when I’ve been there. This different kind of education is very much to do with critical and creative thinking,” he says.

“Chinese academics want their students to experience what they know they are not yet getting at home. They value New Zealand’s independence from direct government control. They want educational experiences that allow students to become independent, critical and creative thinkers.”

He fears a change in New Zealand university governance will be portrayed in influential Chinese social media as government intervention – something New Zealand cannot afford.

“In recent years universities from all over the world have stepped up their recruitment activity in countries like China to increase their international revenue,” Professor Sligo says.

“At the same time, New Zealand universities are trying to manage Chinese concerns about the declining status of New Zealand in the international rankings of universities and the perception that we are a small country a long way from anywhere else.

“With international students spending approximately $26,000 per annum on international tuition fees, we are playing an enormously competitive game. Any perception that New Zealand universities are losing their independence will undermine our ability to recruit in China – and universities from other western countries will not fail to exploit this.”

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