New Zealand is a trade-dependent economy, and the international education sector is a significant contributor that helps the Government of New Zealand earn its way in the world. As given out in the Education New Zealand (ENZ) statement of intent, which was published in 2012, the Government had given the New Zealand international education industry a set of challenging “export” targets that were to be met in next 13 years. The targets included doubling the value of international education industry to $5 billion, part of which was to increase revenues from the export of education services to $500 million a year from $109 million in 2010/11.
It goes to the credit of ENZ marketing strategists that these targets were met in just 5 years instead of 13 years. However, the exponential and rapid growth has not been without experiences, many of which need to be documented under the heading ‘lessons learnt and corrective measures undertaken’.
The most significant and evident lesson learnt is related to the constantly changing dynamics of various players involved such as education providers, education agents, immigration advisers, international students and the knowledge of how and why international students decide on New Zealand as their study destination.
In order to correctly appreciate the players involved in this game an overview of each of their skills is necessary and is as mentioned below:
Education Provider: These constitute private training establishments (PTE’s) and institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), which deliver a variety of educational options under the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA). Education providers focus on their ability to offer education to the required quality standards while NZQA’s focus is on ensuring that the New Zealand qualifications are increasingly valued as credible and robust.
Education Agent: An individual, company or organization in the business of recruiting international students. The agent/agency derives income from the educational provider with which it works, contingent upon the referral of applicants. The relationship between the agent/agency and education provider is typically governed by a contract or written agreement.
Education Counsellor: An education counsellor helps the prospective international student to find the correct course and education provider for achieving the desired educational success. These counsellors must be aware of New Zealand education system and how it is governed and administered by different agencies and providers at different levels.
Career Counsellor: A career counsellor helps the prospective international student to effectively connect education and training with employment opportunities so that they make informed choices about their future employment and career progression.
Immigration Adviser: An immigration adviser is licensed to provide immigration advice, which relates to a prospective international student’s particular circumstances in connection with an immigration matter. They use their knowledge of or personal experience in immigration matters to advise, assist, direct or represent the students in their visa application.
In the statement of intent document of ENZ, it is a well-highlighted fact that New Zealand education experience needs to be a positive one if the New Zealand education brand is to grow in value, and its reputation is to be maintained and enhanced.
Hence, in order to ensure that the international students get the desired New Zealand experience, it becomes incumbent on the players involved to ensure that the process of marketing it involves a pragmatic expectation mapping with the international students. This expectation mapping must cover the various aspects involved with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the above-mentioned game players.
Having said that, it also is true that it has always been and will remain a challenge to successfully manage each of these facets of international education as they tend to overlap with each other due to their ambiguous nature of qualifications, skills, services and interests.
The more we learn to manage them effectively, the better we get at giving the desired New Zealand experience to the international students and in turn increasing the profile of New Zealand’s education system in its priority markets. Therefore, evolving a collaborative model which focuses on matching the expectations of international students with their experience, while they are in New Zealand is the need of the hour.
The various concerns that have the potential to cause a mismatch between international student’s expectations and experience are many, but the most significant among them is the role conflict, role ambiguity and conflict of interest surrounding the game players such as education providers, education agents, education counsellors, career counsellors and immigration advisers.
There is no doubt that there are many dimensions, which are surrounding the concerns and influencing the consequences, but the most noticeable among them is the huge payout involved in the form of commission to education agents by the education providers, which has the potential to cause ethical conflicts among the players involved.
An analysis of the situation at hand legislates that the lessons are learnt and corrective actions are undertaken in order to ensure that brand New Zealand continues to shine and New Zealand gets popularised as a viable destination for quality international students. The game players involved need to take more responsibilities and ensure that the international students expectations are met and they get the New Zealand experience the way they had perceived it when they were offshore.
Vandana Rai is a Senior Licensed Immigration Adviser and has built a reputation around her rare set of skills, which could be considered ideal for her legal profession.