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Budget 2004: Govt. Backs Intl. Education Sector

Hon Trevor Mallard
11 May 2004 Speech Notes

Government backs international education sector

Speech to Pre-Budget Package Launch, Grand Hall, Parliament

I am delighted to welcome you here today for the announcement of the 2004 international education budget package. This package marks a significant government commitment to supporting the development of New Zealand's international education industry.

It is critically important that we have a strong international dimension to our education system. Exposure to overseas thinking raises education standards and international exchanges provide our own students with a much more diverse range of cultural experiences than they might otherwise get.

People-to-people connections are important as our young people learn to operate in what is now a global marketplace and prepare for living and working in an increasingly complex world.

The top quality education that New Zealand provides to many thousands of international students from 140 countries each year not only helps develop the skills of those countries, but also helps New Zealand and our exporters engage bilaterally with other countries and their markets.

The international education sector has grown into one of our most successful. It contributes more than $2 billion annually to the New Zealand economy - earning more than wool and wine combined. Obviously this has important spin-offs for jobs, and for the tourism, hospitality, retail and accommodation sectors around the country.

It's clear we need to look after it, and build on the work that is already taking place to ensure its sustainability and growth.

We all know that international education in New Zealand is emerging from a difficult year in 2003. The government and sector needs to strengthen our work together for a longer-term, more strategic approach.
The development of a joint long-term strategy will further strengthen the quality of education we provide to our international students, and will enable us to produce sustainable and growing economic, social and cultural benefits to New Zealand.

As a government, there are four key areas of priority guiding our work.

We will stand or fall on our reputation. Quality education is important, but the quality of the New Zealand experience that our international students receive also deserves attention.

We want to increase diversity – a sustainable international education industry should not rely too heavily on one or two markets. Furthermore if we're going to truly realise the benefits of cultural diversity that can come from increased internationalisation, we need to develop and maintain a broad base of source countries.

We want to foster greater skills, knowledge and talent transfer and increase our intellectual capital through international education.

Developing international education partnerships to sustain long-term relationships is also a critical priority for a strong international education industry in New Zealand.

These goals provide the framework for the announcement I am making today. Budget 2004 will make a significant commitment to supporting international education with a new investment of $40 million over the next four years, designed to lift New Zealand's profile overseas and further strengthen the sector through a comprehensive programme of new activity.

This new money will increase progressively - from just over $5 million next financial year to an ongoing total of $12.5 million in the 2006/07 year, and each year beyond that.

This Budget package provides funding to support a range of activities across five broad areas.

Funding will be provided to support the establishment of up to 400 international education scholarships and study awards, and to improve education relationships with key countries and regions. We're also providing funding to boost generic promotion and marketing.

This year's Budget is about building New Zealand’s future. This international education initiative is a big part of an economic development package of $375 million (including contingencies) over the next four years, which is complemented by significant new investment in domestic education and families. Together they make up a platform for achieving world-class performance, higher incomes and a bright future for our kids.

New Zealand's international education marketing needs to be complemented by investment in broader, more strategic long-term activity which focuses on relationship building and quality improvements.

This education diplomacy component will help us to build stronger education relationships with other governments and education agencies in target countries. It will help us improve international understanding of the range and quality of New Zealand qualifications. We want to lift the profile of New Zealand as a centre of educational excellence.

The government will be establishing up to four education counsellors, to work in key overseas markets. The first position will be based in Beijing, China, from 1 August this year. Decisions about the locations of other counsellors, or other appropriate arrangements, will be made later in the year.

We also intend to put more resources into education missions from New Zealand, and the hosting of visiting foreign education delegations to New Zealand.

We'll also be targeting resources to consolidate New Zealand's participation in multilateral education agencies and international bodies such as APEC, the European Union, and the OECD.

Significant new investment will be made in strengthening quality systems for international education, with a focus on lifting the educational achievement of international students in New Zealand.

We will be working closely with the education sector to identify, develop, document and share good practice in international education across New Zealand. The government's focus on developing strategies to effectively teach students from a diversity of backgrounds in the New Zealand education system will be a useful link into this work also, as will our overall work in lifting standards and quality in the secondary and tertiary sectors.

We will be providing funding to establish scholarships, in partnership with the education sector, for international postgraduate and undergraduate students to study and carry out research in New Zealand.

Up to 100 scholarships at post-graduate and 100 at undergraduate level will be introduced progressively from 2005 to 2007.

The primary selection criteria for the scholarships will be academic merit. We are aiming to compete head-on with other international education destinations such as Australia, the UK and the USA, to attract top international students to this country.

Our own talented New Zealanders will also benefit through a range of new "study abroad" awards that will enable our high calibre students, teachers and researchers in both the secondary and tertiary fields to undertake placements abroad.

Like the scholarships, the tertiary awards will be progressively phased in from 2005 to 2007, with details on selection and allocation criteria to be developed in conjunction with sector bodies.

New funding will encourage providers to develop and consolidate new methods of delivery such as satellite campuses, e-learning, and off shore courses.

This funding will help providers research risk factors, access seed funding for new products, develop partnerships with providers overseas, build capability and undertake feasibility studies, and share good practice examples across the sector.

Increasing the diversity of our markets will be an important part of maintaining the strength and stability of international education providers. New funding will be available through this Budget to complement industry funding for marketing and promotion work.

This government contribution will be targeted towards more strategic "NZInc" type initiatives that will further develop and maintain a national brand for New Zealand’s international education services.

This new investment recognises the importance government places on international education to New Zealand - both socially and economically.

We are committed to working closely with the sector to build New Zealand’s reputation as a quality education destination, ensuring its long term sustainability and growth.

The priority for the next 12 months, in implementing this package, will therefore be developing with the industry a strong joint strategic approach, through Education New Zealand, so together we can manage the future development of international education.

I have outlined today a broad plan of initiatives - the finer details of implementation will be worked through in conjunction with the sector.

I expect further announcements on the detail of these initiatives to be made over the next few months.

Thank you again for coming here today for this announcement.

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