With New Zealand's considerable student population and robust collaboration with China in teaching and research, Steven Joyce, the country's minister for tertiary education, skills and employment, anticipates ever-closer ties between the South Pacific island nation and its mainland neighbor to the north.
In 2014, more than 30,000 Chinese students studied in New Zealand, making up 27 percent of the country's international student population, Joyce said at a media roundtable for the delegation he led to Beijing in late October to attend the China Annual Conference for International Education.
The conference, organized by the China Education Association for International Exchange and supported by the Ministry of Education, has been held for 15 years. Each year is themed to promote studies by Chinese students in a selected foreign country. This year, New Zealand has the marquee role.
Joyce said there was a notable increase - 15 percent - in the enrollment of Chinese college students last year. Strong interest was shown in subjects such as business and management, English language studies, science, creative arts and education studies.
"New Zealand's attractive fast-track master's programs, which enable students to study for a shortened degree, and a PhD program where international students pay the same fees as local students, have caught the attention of Chinese students," he said.
What is equally impressive, Joyce said, is that more Chinese families are considering a full range of schooling in New Zealand, from primary school to intermediate school and secondary education.
"Enrollments from China increased by 18 percent at New Zealand schools in 2014," he said.
Despite the current economic slowdown and the possibility it is driving more Chinese students to study overseas, Joyce said he doesn't think New Zealand will be greatly affected, since international education was already one of the biggest industries.
"We don't anticipate recent events in China - the devaluation of the Chinese yuan and the stock market's fall - will have a major impact on education demand at this stage, but we are monitoring the situation," he said.
Joyce said that because China is moving from a manufacturing-based to a consumption-driven economy, it shares some interests with New Zealand. Trade in food and tourism are likely to increase, for example. "I think we will see flows continue to grow," he said.
Joyce said with a population of only 4.5 million, New Zealand will never be a mass study destination. "Rather," he said, "it is a destination of choice for those seeking a high-quality, globally recognized English-language education in a safe, multicultural, Asia-Pacific environment."
Apart from education, Joyce said, New Zealand is a "boutique option" for Chinese students who seek a high quality of life. Research conducted by Immigration New Zealand found that 43 percent of Chinese students who attained a tertiary degree stay on to work in the country, and 23 percent went on to gain residency.
He also reminded Chinese students studying in New Zealand to pay attention to areas such as information technology, agriculture, forestry, construction and some medical fields, where there are shortages of skilled workers. Students with qualifications in these areas will be favored in job-hunting and even in immigration, he said.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of New Zealand students are studying in China because of the increasing popularity of the Chinese language and culture studies, Joyce said, adding that the Prime Minister's Scholarships for Asia program launched in 2013 to support studies in Asian countries, has also increased the number of New Zealand students in China.
More than 40 percent of students who receive Prime Minister's Scholarships for Asia choose to study in China, he said.
"The experience of studying in New Zealand or in China sets up lifelong friendships and understanding which immensely benefits both our countries," he said.(Chinadaily)