The Mayor of Palmerston North, Grant Smith, and Alan Cockrell, Chief Executive of local economic development agency, Vision Manawatu have launched the Regional International Education Strategy Report 2016-2020.
The report has been driven by the International Educational Leadership group. The group is made up of key regional education providers and other stakeholders including the Palmerston North City Council.
Mayor Grant Smith says international education is a major contributor to the regional economy. It is currently worth an estimated $62m a year. The goal is to increase that value by 28 per cent to a total of $80m a year by 2020.
“That goal is achievable over the next four years. There is huge potential for international education in our region. Education, regional and city leaders agree that we need to work more closely together to promote the region as a study destination for international students and enhance the quality of their experience here”, says Mayor Smith.
“The quality of our educational offering is unquestionable, but it is the way we welcome international students, our open and caring attitude as a city towards them that really sets us apart from other centres.”
The report has found that although regional co-operation has been limited to date, Palmerston North and the Manawatū still host 3,000 international students a year.
Massey University, who host the majority of these students, was heavily involved in developing the strategy and is keen to see Manawatū develop further as a preferred destination for international students, and as a base for delivering education and research services into other countries.
“International education is already a huge business, Massey Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says. “Our international linkages are an important part of the UniverCity initiative, and also integral to the success of the FoodHQ partnership run with our partners in the region. This strategy will help the region build international education to make it an even more important part of the city and region.”
“Meeting these growth targets and building our reputation as a preferred destination will require increased levels of collaboration”, says Alan Cockrell.
A dedicated International Education Development Manager has been appointed to help implement the strategic goals.
“Judy Bennett-Smith will be working closely with the International Education Leadership Group to build on the many good things that are already happening in the region. She will be aiming to identify areas where we can collectively do more to increase the value that international education creates for everybody,” says Mr. Cockrell.
Another key part of the strategy is to advance cultural, social and political connections to enrich the community.
“Increasing globalisation means that young people need to expand their horizons. Introducing International students from a range of countries enriches both those students, our students and our community in a multitude of ways,” says Peter Brooks, Principal of Freyberg High School.
The strategy has been granted seed funding by Education New Zealand (ENZ) under its Regional Partnership Programme. Palmerston North City and Manawatū District Councils have also contributed.
Clive Jones, General Manager Business Development, Education New Zealand, says that ENZ’s role is to support the growth of New Zealand’s international education industry for enduring economic, social and cultural benefit. Seeing sustainable growth across all of New Zealand is very much at the heart of the Regional Partnership Programme.
“There is an enormous opportunity in the Manawatū to grow international education given the high quality education providers located here, and for the community, businesses, and the regional economy to experience the benefits of a thriving regional international education industry alongside the benefits to kiwi and international students in our classrooms.”