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Growing International student numbers boost campus life

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 12:20pm

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Otago is welcoming a 5.6 per cent growth in international student enrolments compared to the same time last year.

Increased international recruitment efforts are paying off for the University of Otago, with international enrolments up for the second year in a row.

Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne yesterday released the 2017 enrolment figures at the April meeting of the University Council. They show a growth in international enrolments offsetting a small decline in domestic student recruitment, leaving 2017 enrolments on a par with the same time last year.

International full-fee enrolments are up 5.6 per cent on the same time last year (71 Equivalent Full Time Students or EFTS). Domestic enrolments are down 85 EFTS (-0.5 per cent), leaving total enrolments down just 14 EFTS (0.1 per cent).

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) Professor Helen Nicholson says the University has increased its international recruitment efforts over the past three years, and has also developed programmes such as the taught Masters’ which are particularly attractive to international students.

"They provide an international perspective to the University and give opportunities for our domestic students to gain an understanding of differing cultures helping them to develop into global citizens."

“Perhaps more importantly we have been working with international universities to develop strong, sustainable partnerships that see students undertaking some of their study in the partner university and some of their study at Otago. This includes some of our staff teaching offshore - an example of this would be the new DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) Programme.”

This Otago degree is being delivered in Shanghai in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, with a similar programme also being delivered in New Zealand.

Also underpinning much of the growth is the engagement of the Academic Divisions with the International Office, Professor Nicholson explains.

“Each Division now has an Associate Dean International and these deans are doing a great job communicating the importance of international students to staff in their Divisions and providing useful information back to the International Office so that they can provide good support to these students and ensure that recruitment is linked to the strategic directions of each of the Divisions.”

The strong growth areas for international students are from the United States (up 60 students or 16.7 per cent), China (up 27 students or 8.3 per cent), Germany (up 16 students or 94.1 per cent), and India (up 15 students or 45.5 per cent).

Professor Nicholson says the value of international students is immense – and not just in terms of the money they bring in.

“They provide an international perspective to the University and give opportunities for our domestic students to gain an understanding of differing cultures helping them to develop into global citizens. International enrolments contribute to the international reputation of the University and assist in the development of research and teaching collaborations. They contribute to the rich diversity of the University and by their actions particularly with the volunteers’ centre to the wider community/communities.”

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Pacific Island student enrolment numbers are up 6.9 percent on last year.

Māori and Pacific numbers also up

In addition to the growth in International student numbers, Pacific Island and Māori enrolments are also up this year. Māori enrolments are up by 67 students (3.9 per cent) while domestic Pacific enrolments are up by 51 students (6.9 per cent).

Manager of the University’s Pacific Islands Centre Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai says the growth in Pacific numbers is really exciting, and is a reflection of the support Otago provides to these students.

“There is now a good level of awareness out in the community and the schools about the wrap-around support Otago provides for Pacific students,” she says.

“Also, almost all of the first-year students will have had prior engagement with Otago through our many outreach programmes, including Community Fonos, On Campus Experience, information evenings, Hands on at Otago, OUASSA, and the wonderful work done by our School Liaison teams.”

"There is now a good level of awareness out in the community and the schools about the wrap-around support Otago provides for Pacific students."

Tofilau says there was also a record number of Pacific students receiving first-year scholarships this year.

“One hundred and twenty scholarships were achieved by 97 first year Pacific students. Looking at the numbers, almost half of first-year students (Pacific) successfully achieved one! And if you add the NZAid sponsored ones and other international awards, wow – I honestly don't believe another university can beat that.”

Professor Hayne says the enrolment figures are an excellent reflection of key strategic targets for the University’s future student cohort, having secured targeted international growth, more postgraduate enrolments, more Māori and Pasifika, and – once again – a higher calibre first-year cohort.

With Otago having secured significant domestic first-year growth in 2016, Professor Hayne says it is not entirely surprising that some of those gains have been eroded in 2017.

“There is a demographic dip that led to last year’s Year 13 school leaver pool being appreciably smaller than the previous year. Additionally, with a strong economy producing more employment opportunities, it is likely that the number of school leavers, and others, seeking to proceed to university study is lower than in 2016.”

Around 1,000 further enrolments are likely in semester two and later in the year, which leaves the University on track for a roll very similar in size to 2016 by year’s end.