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A major education agreement between the Dunedin City Council and one of the largest education providers in China could dramatically lift Chinese student numbers in Dunedin, Mayor Dave Cull says.
The agreement with education provider JJL, which controls 30% of the Chinese education market, was signed by Mr Cull in Beijing yesterday.
He said the agreement could bolster the city's $165 million international education sector.
"Over 1000 Chinese international secondary and tertiary students studied in Dunedin last year, which brought obvious economic and cultural benefits to the city.
"With over 4000 international students annually, this vital sector is already worth about $165 million to Dunedin's regional economy, and this agreement could lift that considerably.''
The agreement would increase international numbers at the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic and Dunedin high schools, he said.
The council had worked with the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic to develop learning programmes which would support the students, and the council would remain in talks with JJL to ensure the agreement was a success, Mr Cull said.
University of Otago international director Simon Chu said the agreed contract with JJL had an initial target which would add 100 new Chinese students to the city in the first year - an increase of 20% on current enrolments delivered by JJL to Dunedin.
This was expected to inject a further $5 million into Dunedin's economy, he said.
JJL had already begun promoting Dunedin as a destination for quality education, Mr Chu said.
"The agreement has been refined over the past few months but several years have gone into developing the relationship and the knowledge [for our partner] of Dunedin as a safe, welcoming and world-class destination,'' Mr Chu said.
He did not know what the split between tertiary students and secondary pupils would be, but believed the "lion's share'' would be in the tertiary sector.
Secondary pupils would live in homestay situations, which would create additional incomes for Dunedin families, he said.
An emphasis would be put on making the foreign learners feel "special''.
"Apart from the world-class academic and pastoral care each of the institutions provides, there will be internships and some additional opportunities for students to partake in welcomes with civic leaders.''