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European student referrals to New Zealand universities have jumped 136% after Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
The Government-owned overseas marketing agency Education New Zealand said the increase came after a ‘‘cheeky’’ social media campaign in five European countries late last year.
It is about to launch a campaign on September 1 offering undergraduate and graduate scholarships to students in Europe, as well as in the United States where the same campaign has been run for three years.
Staff told an international education conference in Auckland yesterday that New Zealand stood to gain from both Brexit, which may close free entry for European students to British universities, and United States President Donald Trump’s planned travel bans affecting seven predonimantly Muslim countries.
The agency’s regional director for the Americas and Europe, Lisa Futschek, said the post-Brexit social media campaign targeted students in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark who would have studied in Britain when it was expected to stay in the European Union.
The campaign used maps of Britain and New Zealand showing that both countries were about the same size but New Zealand was much less crowded.
‘‘There was a huge appetite for an alternative study destination,’’ she said.
The campaign drew 2176 students who clicked through from the social media messages to get more information about studying in New Zealand, and then contacted the websites of New Zealand universities – up 136% from the same period the previous year.
‘‘In addition we saw the sessions on the Study NZ website increase in Germany by more than 5000%, in France by more than 3000% and in Sweden by more than 1000%,’’ MS Futschek said.
‘‘That tells me there is a significant opportunity for us in Europe.’’
For the first time, New Zealand’s ‘‘Go Overseas’’ scholarships that have been promoted in the US will also be promoted in Europe from next month.
They offer only two $15,000 undergraduate semester scholarships, available for any New Zealand university, and two $10,000 graduate scholarships for Auckland or Otago Universities.
Ms Futschek said 3000 Americans applied for the single scholarship that was offered last year.
Only 9% of New Zealand’s international students last year came from Europe and 3% from North America, ranking well behind China (29%) and India (21%).
But first-time enrolments from the US were up 20% in the year to July.
Dr Esther Brimmer, head of the Washington-based Nafsa Association of International Educators, said international student applications dropped at 39% of US colleges after Mr Trump’s attempt to ban travel from seven Muslim countries early this year.
‘‘We would anticipate that there may be international students who would be looking at other places where they can get an excellent education in the English language in a safe environment.
‘‘The Canadians have been saying they have already seen a dramatic surge in applications.
‘‘We would anticipate that other similar countries, including New Zealand, would probably see an increase.’’