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NZ International Education Reputation Survives Quake

NZ International Education Reputation Survives Quake

Education New Zealand: Media Release 24/03/11

“New Zealand has always been seen as a safe and welcoming destination for international students. While the February 22 earthquake certainly made headlines around the world, we are optimistic that New Zealand’s reputation as a safe education destination will recover quickly,” says Kathy Phillips, acting Chief Executive of Education New Zealand.

The organisation recently conducted a survey of education agents in 20 countries to see what the effect of the earthquake had been on their students currently in New Zealand and those planning to study here in the future.

“There were speculative reports that international students were leaving New Zealand in droves, but according to the agents that’s just not the case. Over 90 per cent of the respondents told us that most or all of their students who were in Christchurch during the earthquake have either remained in Christchurch, or transferred to another region of New Zealand,” says Kathy Phillips.

The survey suggested that in the short term both Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand could expect a downturn in new international students. Over half of the agents who had enrolments starting between now and June indicated that at least some of their Christchurch enrolled clients had asked to change their enrolment to an institution in another region. Almost a quarter have had some clients cancel their plans to come to New Zealand.

In the days following the quake, ENZ acted as a point of contact for Christchurch institutions looking for guidance, education agents seeking unbiased information about the situation, and government agencies looking for a way to spread updates to the industry. The organisation’s offshore representatives answered queries from parents, agents and media in a number of countries including China, where a number of international education fairs took place this month.

“As the industry body for international education in New Zealand, Education New Zealand has been working closely with both industry members and government departments to support international students affected by the earthquake and ensure their safety and comfort,” says Kathy Phillips. “We knew that our national reputation could be impacted by the way we handled the quake, and looking after our international students was the top priority. It was very heartening to see the industry pull together and help one another in the best interests of the students.”

“We found following the earthquake that we were not just a contact point for industry members, but also for confused or worried students through our presence in the social media sphere. By making ourselves available on Facebook and Twitter we were able to be responsive and stop rumours from spreading unchecked,” says Kathy Phillips.

Education New Zealand oversees the accreditation of New Zealand Specialist Agents in 20 countries around the world, and has been regularly updating those agents on the recovery process in Christchurch.

“Agents have been bombarded with misleading news stories, and panicked phone calls from worried parents. We have provided support to them as a highly trusted organisation supplying reliable information that can help students and parents to make informed decisions about studying in New Zealand. Once they understood that only a small area of the country was affected, many decided that students could choose to stay in New Zealand, which is very encouraging,” says Kathy Phillips.

“We are happy to hear that agents have understood that most of New Zealand was completely unaffected by the earthquake and is still the safe, high quality education destination it has always been. We have been completely honest with them regarding the situation, and they have appreciated having the facts in front of them,” says Kathy Phillips.

The long term picture is looking positive. For enrolments from July 2

011 onwards only three per cent of the agents surveyed have had most or all of their clients cancel plans to study in New Zealand.

In fact, over 80 per cent of the agents are promoting study opportunities in New Zealand to their clients at the same level as before the earthquake. Not a single agent expressed plans to stop recommending New Zealand to their clients.

Education New Zealand has participated in meetings with institutions in Christchurch, and with tourism industry representatives, to look at ways to help both Christchurch and New Zealand rebuild confidence in the international education area. ENZ initiatives have included free participation in selected offshore education fairs for marketing staff from Christchurch based institutions.

“We know that it sends a strong message to see representatives from Christchurch alongside the wider New Zealand export education industry at these events. An NZ Inc. approach has never been more important. It lets people overseas know that most institutions are open for business and welcoming new students. We hope that the recently announced government funding available to Christchurch exporters going offshore will also help to support these institutions and help them to get back into their key overseas markets,” says Kathy Phillips.

Education New Zealand is working with institutions to formulate a long term strategy for reversing any downturn in international students caused by the earthquake.

“Export education is a key industry for New Zealand and is also important for growing the country’s skilled workforce, so investing in its future is crucial at this time. To this end, Education New Zealand is planning to step up its promotional presence to ensure that students from around the world continue to come here and experience New Zealand’s excellent education opportunities and live in our amazing country,” says Kathy Phillips.

Ends

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