New York Times on NZ’s education exportation

An article by journalist Liz Gooch in the Asia/Pacific section of today’s New York Times examines New Zealand’s efforts to draw more international students.

An excerpt (read in full here):

New Zealand Casts Itself as Destination for International Students

When Josephine Huong Le was in high school in Hanoi, she had her sights set on studying in Switzerland. Then came the financial crisis, so she began investigating more affordable options.

While she was considering the possibilities, she happened to watch “The Lord of the Rings,” the J.R.R. Tolkien epic filmed in New Zealand. The stunning natural landscape so impressed Ms. Le that she began exploring study possibilities there.

“It’s cheaper than Switzerland,” said Ms. Le, now in her second year toward a bachelor’s degree in commerce and administration at Victoria University of Wellington. “They have less people. It’s quiet and peaceful. It’s affordable.”

New Zealand, with a population of just 4.4 million, may be best known for its wine, sheep and spectacular scenery, but it is increasingly seeking to present itself as an affordable, high-quality alternative to traditional education destinations like the United States, Britain and Australia.

With international education now New Zealand’s fifth biggest export, annually worth 2.5 billion New Zealand dollars, or $2 billion, the government wants to double the sector’s economic value in the next 15 years. The expansion is seen as a way to increase university revenue, internationalize the institutions and bolster the ranks of the country’s skilled work force.

But the country faces stiff competition from its nearest neighbor, Australia, which has long been a favored destination for international students.

To help New Zealand’s universities better compete, the government has embarked on a multipronged approach in recent years, from reducing fees for international Ph.D. students to opening more visa offices in Asia.

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