20 March 2017

Southland economy benefits from international education

International students are boosting Southland’s economy and locking-in skilled workers.

A report by Education New Zealand studied the economic impact of international education in Southland for 2015-16.

The report says, international students in the region spend an average of $33,200 and foreign exchange earnings amounted to $46.3 million for 2015-16.

SIT international department and marketing manager Chami Abeysinghe said the impact of international education in the region showed significant exchange earnings as well as a substantial number of jobscreated.

Following the influx of international students and their families a “greater vibrancy and a busier city” was observed, she said.

As of March 2017, the institution had 939 international students enrolled.

The most popular markets were China and India, she said.

International students were interested in postgraduate business studies, chef practice, information technology, hotel management and engineering, Abeysinghe said.

“Student numbers are targeted to grow year on year. SIT’s growth in International student numbers aligns to the International Education Strategy for Southland which is forecasting the enrolments to grow to over 2800 International students by 2025.”

The institutions target markets were from China, Indian, Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Philippines, Russia and Eastern European Countries, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia and Japan, she said.

Keeping up with the growth, SIT has three new masters degree programmes - master of IT, master of applied management and master of applied health sciences.

Invercargill National MP Sarah Dowie said in 2015-16, Southland hosted 1470 international students who brought good money to the region.

“Not only do international students bring vibrancy and energy to Invercargill and Southland, they also bring significant economic benefits,” she said.

Clutha-Southland National MP Todd Barclay said the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), Venture Southland, secondary and primary schools and other local agencies do “fantastic” work to attract more international students to the South.

“Financially, international students make a valuable contribution to both the education provider and the wider Southland community, but we are also seeing significant social and cultural benefits for students, businesses and communities,” he said.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey said she was pleased with the results but was keen to expand further on growing numbers.

“The impact on business is a positive one with the industries directly supplying goods and services to international students generating value added of $23.1 million and 185 jobs, however, there is always room for growth,” she said.

The Southland Regional Development Strategy has a goal of getting 3500 international students, 6000 including dependents, by 2025.

The aim was to “bolster” population and the workforce, Carey said.

But retention of students after study was the key, she said.