Fewer international students expected

University of Otago
University of Otago
Dunedin can expect a drop in international student numbers as a result of the Christchurch massacre.

But the groundswell of love and support shown to the Muslim community in response to the tragedy in Christchurch will also help Dunedin through the country's darkest days.

That was the view of Study Dunedin co-ordinator Margo Reid, of Enterprise Dunedin, who addressed a meeting of the Dunedin City Council's economic development committee earlier this week.

Ms Reid told the meeting Study Dunedin's immediate focus was on supporting students already in Dunedin, or due here shortly, as well as their parents.

Media reports had already suggested New Zealand's $5.1billion international education sector was bracing for a hit as a result of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

New Zealand had about 125,000 international students in 2017, including Muslims.

In Otago, there were about 6460 international tertiary students and secondary pupils studying here during the 2017-18 financial year, bringing $250million to the region - up 66% from the amount recorded in 2016.

Of those, about 5000 were in Dunedin, spread between the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic and the city's schools.

In Southland, 1434 students or pupils studied in the region during 2017-18, bringing $60million to the local economy - up 78% from 2016.

Ms Reid told Tuesday's meeting the sector would take a hit.

"We will find that a number [of students] will decline to come because of what's happening."

However, members of Dunedin's Muslim community also felt the love shown in response to last week's tragedy would count in the city's favour, she said.

That response needed to continue to be the city's focus, Ms Reid said.

Contacted yesterday, she said there were "rumblings" about some international students potentially delaying plans to come to Dunedin as a result of last week's attack.

However, she was not aware of any cancellations yet, or students already in the city wanting to go home, and hoped any downturn would prove to be a "blip".

"Yes there is talk of that. We just can't quantify it," she said.

A welcome for about 200 new international students by Mayor Dave Cull was staged at the Edgar Centre yesterday, and the feedback from most students was they still felt safe, Ms Reid said.

Mr Cull talked to them specifically about the terror attack, while stressing it did not reflect Dunedin's history of diversity and that those visiting from other countries were welcome and safe.

The students - who are spending time at 12 schools across Dunedin - were also reminded of ways they could raise any concerns, Ms Reid said.

An Otago Polytechnic spokeswoman said there had been no student cancellations or withdrawals attributed to safety concerns since the attacks last Friday.

A University of Otago spokeswoman said the university was known internationally for supporting diversity, inclusion and tolerance, and continued to assure international markets that had not changed.

"The Otago International Office is receiving more questions than usual from people considering studying here from overseas.

"However, we have not had any cancellations."

The university was ensuring potential students were kept up to date, and support was being offered to the Christchurch campus.

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