We would like to thank the reviewers, Jenn Bestwick and Trisha McEwan, for undertaking Education NZ’s Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) review. We also thank all those who contributed to this review.
Since Education NZ’s establishment in 2011, we have been undertaking activities to support the achievement of our core business areas. The PIF recommendations are in line with our Business Plan 2015-16 ‘Building a decade of growth’ but we appreciate the PIF’s call for us to implement some activities with greater urgency and a sharper focus. We believe the reviewers have provided a well-informed, forward-looking and useful assessment. We are committed to developing and delivering on the four-year excellence horizon for Education NZ.
We do have some important decisions to make, allocating resources around new directions and heightened areas of focus, and we are now working through those decisions and resource questions.
Education NZ’s leadership role
It is critical for New Zealand that the international education industry’s current strong growth and position as a key export under the Business Growth Agenda continues so that international education is an important contributor to New Zealand’s social, cultural and economic development. We concur with the review’s finding that while there is a set of targets in place for international education, there is not a clear, aligned strategy across government agencies informing and leading the growth and development of the industry. We agree that is a gap for Education NZ to fill.
Since being established, we have built our credibility with the international education industry and stakeholders and earned the right to lead to take the industry forward. We believe the time is right for Education NZ to move into a much more strategic and influencing role to drive the international education agenda and enlist other agencies to support the agenda alongside our current operations. It will be vital that other agencies, primarily the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, understand and embrace our role.
We agree that Education NZ should not have a policy or regulatory function but should move into a more strategic space to influence and drive policy alignment across agencies. To do this, the role and focus of the International Education Senior Officials’ Group needs to grow to enable us to deliver a more cohesive and planned approach to cross-agency work to support the industry. We will use the Group to enlist the support of other agencies to proactively drive international education forward.
We will work with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to clarify our respective roles in the area of international diplomacy, in particular the leading and corralling of offshore efforts of NZ Inc to advance educational issues, and the use of diplomacy activities such as Ministerial Missions and Free Trade Agreement negotiations to promote New Zealand education internationally.
We have been providing mainly retrospective information and intelligence about international student attraction and the value of the industry. We will step up to provide the industry, other agencies and decision-makers with authoritative, targeted information and intelligence that gives New Zealand a competitive edge.
Education NZ faces a big immediate challenge in stepping up to provide informed, highly valued information, data, analytics and insights to drive industry and government agency decision-making. We must become a knowledge-led organisation, generating highly useful and sought after intelligence and making sure it gets to the people who really need it.
We also see a leadership role for Education NZ working with the industry. In addition to supporting those providers who are active in international education, we need to work to broaden and deepen the pool of players in international education. This means sharpening the value proposition that we demonstrate to existing and potential providers, both across Goal 1 student attraction activities and in the area of Goal 2 offshore delivery initiatives.
Across these leadership areas, the review usefully speaks of Education NZ becoming the “go-to” agency for all things international education.
Working with international students and the industry
Our role is complex as we work with international students, New Zealand education providers (including prospective providers) and other government agencies in New Zealand and overseas, and across New Zealand’s education and economic development systems. Since being established we have focused on energising and building the capability of New Zealand education providers to enable them to grow the international education elements of their organisation. We have also been engaging with prospective and current international students and their key influencers through our promotional activity and in-market teams.
As we move beyond our establishment phase these complexities do not diminish. We will continue to build the capability of the industry and collect student feedback and map those against global benchmarks to ensure a quality student experience. These include developing the current work on student personas from a marketing tool into an organising principle of Education NZ interventions, from attraction and recruitment through to students’ experience in New Zealand and deepening the post-study engagement with students as alumni.
The review places considerable emphasis on the international student as customer, and we have had a lot of discussion about the ramifications of this. We take a pragmatic position on this. The consumers and users of many of our services are and will continue to be international education providers. We need to understand their needs and address them as customers. But having, in addition, a strong focus on the needs of existing and potential international learners is also extremely important. Placing international students at the centre of our approach is vital if we are to stay abreast of current and future needs and trends, avoid capture by existing providers and ensure New Zealand continues to present an attractive, compelling proposition to internationally mobile learners.
Promote New Zealand as an education destination
We have been focusing on growing the number and value of international students studying in New Zealand by raising awareness of New Zealand education and improving our understanding of prospective international students’ decision-making and those that can influence the decision on where to study such as agents and alumni. We will continue this strong focus on attracting students to New Zealand - it is our core proposition - while focusing even more strongly on building value (rather than just numbers), building the geographic diversity of the countries they come from and working to ensure a better regional spread of students throughout New Zealand.
We will do this by:
- continuing to work to diversify where international students come from and where in New Zealand they study
- having a highly informed focus on current and future student expectations and drivers
- growing the pool of internationally committed providers by encouraging existing international education providers to focus their efforts and new entrants into international education
- continuing to examine Education NZ’s network and whether our New Zealand and internationally based staff are located most effectively to support the industry.
In promoting the growth of international education in New Zealand, we see there is also a leadership role for Education NZ in bringing international perspectives to the core of New Zealand educational delivery. Not merely to remain internationally competitive, but also to help ensure education in New Zealand is truly leading edge for all students, Education NZ’s intelligence, market insights and readings of international trends and issues in education can be highly valuable for the whole sector. We have an onus to provide that leadership.
Through these initiatives, we believe Education NZ will help ensure the country continues to be well-positioned to benefit from a dynamic, growing business centred on international students coming to New Zealand for part of their education.
New Zealand’s education programmes, products and services delivered offshore are sought after
At present only a small proportion of the international education industry’s $3.0 billion value comes from delivering education offshore. Can and should offshore delivery grow rapidly as a part of New Zealand’s educational offering to the world? We believe there is potential for growth but in order to unleash it, New Zealand providers need to understand much better the options and the potential, and Education NZ needs to really sharpen its value proposition in helping providers get there.
What is the scope and value for a small country with few institutions of scale or international brand recognition to dramatically lift international delivery? And what can Education NZ uniquely bring to the table to help them? We must rapidly work on those questions.
We will define our value proposition for the work we undertake to support this industry in this area. While we have a leadership role, it is the industry that will deliver on this area. We expect there are niche opportunities, and approaches that can bring real value to providers’ core businesses, but we don’t see a wholesale, rapid transition to offshore delivery within the next four years.
New Zealand education has not kept pace with changes in educational thinking, design and delivery occurring internationally. New ways of teaching and delivery combined with the new demands of learners need to be considered now to help the New Zealand education system continue to be one of the best in the world for the next 10-20 years. Gaining acceptance of the changes occurring globally across education systems can only be driven by New Zealand’s education system agencies working together. This thinking has been reflected in the recent collective work on education system stewardship that we will be involved in implementing and will be reflected in our work in this area.
Since being established, we have been working with the industry to encourage them to take up opportunities to deliver New Zealand education internationally. We have appointed a supplier to assist in the development of a new valuation methodology for this area. This recognises that not all providers of New Zealand education internationally have been captured in previous analysis of this area. This will enable us to then work with these previously unidentified providers to identify how we can help these providers expand their businesses or the markets they operate in.
In summary, we are active at a level which we believe largely reflects industry and government appetite. We will sharpen our focus into this area, but our work will be balanced against our expectation that most of the changes to education will occur in the longer term and that for the near future the bulk of New Zealand’s value from international education will come from attracting students to come to the country and learn.
Raise awareness of the benefits of international education in New Zealand
Another major theme of the report is identifying and developing the benefits of international education for New Zealand. This includes aligning and articulating economic goals, being the “go-to agency” for all things international across the education system, playing a lead role in internationalising the education system itself, and creating a responsive and supportive environment in which the benefits of international education are widely understood. Without this understanding, the long-term, sustainable growth of international education is threatened. If communities don’t understand and endorse the value of the students they are hosting, support for the industry will diminish. We are significantly stepping up our approach in building public awareness and endorsement of international education.
The report rightly identifies that the industry needs to operate with an accepted social licence in New Zealand. This includes raising the awareness of the benefits of international education, and addressing the societal impacts. Clarity on the public value of international education and engaging with the wider New Zealand to build greater understanding of the benefits of international education is the responsibility of Education NZ and other government agencies. We have been telling stories to build understanding and acceptance of the social, cultural and economic contribution international education makes to New Zealand communities, institutions and education.
We must also work with other agencies to ensure that government initiatives and policy settings are aligned to capture the benefits of international education. This includes the quality of New Zealand education, long-term labour market skill needs, the contribution of international students to the institutions and communities they live in and, critically, the overall experience that visiting students have in New Zealand. We will continue to fund the Prime Minister’s Scholarships programme sending New Zealanders offshore to study to improve the international skills of the New Zealand workforce and strengthen New Zealanders’ understanding of other cultures.
Education NZ’s ability to drive these areas is through persuasion, leadership and enlisting decision-makers and influencers around a shared strategy.
Education NZ has already drawn a lot of value from the PIF exercise. It has challenged us to move beyond approaches which have served us and the industry well in the implementation phase, to confronting bigger questions about the future of international education and our role in securing it.
We are at work on many of the paths identified in the PIF. We look forward to harnessing the insights gained from this process to make progress for New Zealand.