Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

Excellent returns coming in from New Zealand this week, where language school association English New Zealand is advising of a 20 per cent increase in student numbers in 2016, building on the decent growth of the previous year.

Increases seemingly came from an array of source countries, not least Japan and Thailand which posted growth of around 30 per cent each.


Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie, Chair of English New Zealand, which advised the growth to StudyTravel Magazine this week, credited the introduction of work rights for language students in 2014 as a major factor in the sector's sterling growth over the last few years, particularly in relation to the long-stay Latin American markets.


He also praised a number of development initiatives backed by Education New Zealand to grow markets in Europe, Vietnam and Latin America.


In StudyTravel Magazine's annual market analysis surveys of the major ELT destinations, New Zealand, along with neighbouring Australia, generally has the highest rate of agent usage - indeed agent-based recruitment accounted for 80 per cent of students for responding schools in our last such poll. This is perhaps understandable given that New Zealand doesn't have the physical proximity to source markets that many of its rivals enjoy.


So Ewen made welcome acknowledgement of the vital role that agents play, congratulating their "retailer partners" for their part in the recent success of New Zealand's ELT industry.


He also praised the Immigration Department for its boldness in initiating work rights for language students, and schools have also commented on the attractiveness of the pathway visa.


Immigration streams never seem to be far away from the headlines at the moment, and we have seen an interesting global shift in the last couple of weeks, not necessarily related to student visas, but changes that are making international education sectors sweat.


Executive orders in the USA to review and reform H-1B and other work visa streams for foreign nationals have educators fearful of further negative perceptions of the country as a study destination. The reforms could actually benefit international students, who often seek to transfer to a H-1b visa, but the vacuum is unlikely to inspire confidence in a sector that has taken a jolt from travel bans and the high dollar.


Australia has been more clear cut in suddenly announcing the removal of its Temporary Work 457 visa and replacing it with different streams and a stronger set of caveats for employers. This does not change student visas or the work rights attached to them, but it does shift routes to permanent migration a little further away.


The international education industry, riding a wave of record enrolments year on year and hitherto gleefully expecting to grow even further on the back of the 'Trump effect' and Brexit, reacted very quickly to issue assurances that there was no change for students, but some associations are clearly fretful about any negative perceptions. Indeed, the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) stressed the importance of reassuring agency networks.


And the aforementioned New Zealand has also unveiled changes to its skilled migration category, increasing the salary thresholds for those seeking permanent residence. Education New Zealand Chair, Grant McPherson, acknowledged there could be some knock-on effect in the short-term on international student recruitment, particularly in the vocational sector below degree level.


All three of these destinations have enjoyed large increases over recent years from India, perhaps the most sensitive source country to perceived changes to work rights and migration routes, so it will be interesting to see what happens as these restrictions bed in.


Lastly, if you are reading this on April 28 as the newsletter goes out, I have to advise that now is the absolute last chance to vote in the 2017 StudyTravel Star Awards! Voting closes tonight!  


By Matthew Knott

News Editor