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Russian Students Flock To New Zealand

Russian Students Flock To New Zealand

Hundreds more Russian students are expected to enrol with education providers throughout New Zealand in coming months.

The predicted influx follows a successful 14-day promotional trip to Russia in March by members of the Russia Education Export Network (REEN), a group set up with backing from Trade New Zealand in 2002.

Export Network Chairman Peter Wilkins says New Zealand is a hot destination for Russian students, with our embassy in Moscow receiving around 70 student visa applications each month, compared to around 70 each year before REEN began promotional activities there last year.

New enrolments have already been received as a result of the trip and Peter Wilkins says REEN members anticipate ‘hundreds’ more later this year, with Russia having the potential to become one of the top six markets for New Zealand to source foreign students. In 2002, according to Education NZ estimates, Russia, with 308 students, ranked 18th among student source markets.

The group visited six Russian cities and Sakhalin Island, off the eastern Russian coast, holding 12 education-focused events including expos, meetings with education agents and an official reception at the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow.

REEN’s inaugural trip to Russia took place in April last year when six education expos were held in Siberia and the Far East of Russia. Peter Wilkins also made a separate visit to Moscow in 2002, drawing up a list of 15 education agents REEN members could work with.

The same cities were visited this time around, with three new destinations added to the itinerary – the Siberian cities of Novosbirsk and Omsk, and Sakhalin Island. REEN has concentrated on Siberia and Eastern Russia to date as these regions are more Pacific oriented and have convenient airline connections to New Zealand via Korea and China.

Peter Wilkins says there was a huge increase in numbers attending the public events on the most recent visit, with turn-outs of between three and five hundred students each time. The presentation in Omsk was the first by an Australasian country and the New Zealanders were the first foreign mission ever to visit Sakhalin Island, where a rapidly developing oil industry is generating wealth and demand for overseas education.

REEN members also expect to be able to expand the list of preferred education agents to more than 30, by adding contacts made in cities outside Moscow.

Trade New Zealand Education Networks Manager Ian Stockwell says New Zealand is seen as an exciting new destination and is gaining popularity with Russian students. The growing awareness of New Zealand in Russia, has been helped by the increasing number of Russians who are migrating to New Zealand.

He says Trade New Zealand has worked with REEN on its business plan and has provided export network funding and a contribution to costs

“We are delighted with the results achieved so far by REEN as Russia is a very challenging new market. The success to date highlights the very real advantages of New Zealand education institutions, which are small compared with our competitors, working co-operatively in marketing overseas.”

He says it makes business sense for New Zealand to diversify the markets from which it attracts students both to minimise our reliance on individual countries and ensure there is a good cultural mix in classes of international students. Peter Wilkins says REEN’s promotional activities are not limited to forging education links but focus on building awareness of New Zealand in general.

“Russia is an ideal trading partner for New Zealand, given its large population and considerable natural resources,” he says. “It is also probably the only country in the world we have been able to identify as a possible source of highly trained and well educated teachers we could recruit to reduce shortages in New Zealand.”

REEN plans to visit Russia twice yearly from now on and Peter Wilkins says he’ll be inviting other export sectors to join the group to hold ‘NZ Inc’ promotions.

“In a market the size of Russia you need scale to have impact. Russia is a sophisticated market and good organisation is expected. Other sectors can build on the ground work we’ve done to date.”

The export network has expanded to 18 members including five universities, eight institutes of technology, a private degree provider, three private language schools and a college group.

With the high quality of New Zealand education being a key selling point in Russia, all members have a track record in international education. There is also a wide geographical spread ensuring that Russian students have choices about where to live, although the majority of students already in New Zealand are based in Auckland.

REEN’s next visit to Russia is scheduled for September / October this year.

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