The University of Otago is ''behind the eight ball'' when
it comes to attracting international students, Tertiary
Education Minister Steven Joyce says.
Mr Joyce made the comments when asked whether a drop in
international student numbers at Otago University, revealed
at its latest council meeting, was evidence the Government's
aim of doubling the value of international education to $5
billion by 2025 was ''unrealistic''.
Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne revealed at the meeting
international full-fee enrolments had dropped 3.7% on last
year to 1191 equivalent-fulltime students this year.
This is the third year in a row of declining international
numbers at Otago University since they peaked at 1664 at the
end of 2011.
Labour's tertiary education spokesman, Grant Robertson, said
the figures showed the Government's aim to double the value
of international education was ''unrealistic'' and setting
''universities up to fail''.
''I think really what it highlights for me is the danger of
universities being so reliant on international students for
their funding,'' Mr Robertson said.
This overreliance was as a result of Government underfunding,
Mr Joyce said Mr Robertson ''doesn't know what he's talking
about'' and the Government had put in much thought before
setting the aim of doubling the value of international
This included looking at how Australia's top universities -
known as the Group of Eight (G8) - performed in terms of
''Most, if not all, of the G8 universities attract much, much
larger sums of international income than both Otago and
Auckland [New Zealand's top universities] do.''
New Zealand universities, including Otago, were now ''putting
quite a lot of effort'' into international education, but had
been guilty of ''dropping of the ball'' for a couple of
''We are starting a bit behind the eight ball,'' he said.
Concern over universities' handing of international education
was one reason for the Government's proposed changes to
He was pleased with the direction Otago University was
taking, but it would have been preferable if it started ''a
''They have lifted [the cap on international student numbers
from 12% to 15%] and they are now determined to fill it, but
there is a bit of catch-up to do.''
Mr Robertson's assertions about universities being
overreliant on funding from international students were
false, he said.
''I think it's the exact reverse. We are increasing the
funding ... and if anything the international income is not
keeping up with the increases that the Government is putting
Otago University international pro-vice-chancellor Prof Helen
Nicholson said the university ran an extensive recruitment
and marketing campaign aimed at international students and
was ''committed to providing a quality education and superior
Despite the overall decline this year, there were some
positives, including more students from China (up 31
students), Iran (up 20), Brazil (up 10) and Norway (up 9).