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Globalising NZ students

05 April 2017 | news

Students who study overseas do better academically, get better jobs and are paid more.  So how will the recent TEC announcement support New Zealand student mobility?

From this year, tuition funding and student support is available to full-time students studying at degree level and above at overseas campuses or sites of New Zealand tertiary education organisations in 29 approved countries.

This is a positive move that supports the continued internationalisation of New Zealand universities. The amendment to funding conditions will make a practical difference to students and to institutions in their efforts to increase research and industry connections abroad and encourage global citizenship. Global partnerships are important to New Zealand and the establishment of offshore delivery sites and campuses, many in conjunction with other providers, is an emerging feature of many universities.

Studying in an offshore campus is just one strand of international mobility, the benefits of which are apparent in a newly released report from Universities UK. “Gone International: Mobility Works”, which tracks the impact of student mobility on the 2014-15 graduating cohort, found a statistically significant correlation between outward student mobility and academic and employment outcomes.

Of particular interest, the benefits for students who are traditionally underrepresented in international mobility were even more pronounced. Students from “disadvantaged backgrounds who were mobile during their degree earned 6.1% more, and those in work were more likely to be in a graduate level job (80.2% compared to 74.7%) than their non-mobile peers”. This is a fascinating piece of research underscoring the emphasis New Zealand universities are increasingly placing on outward international mobility opportunities for a wider range of students.

In this context, it’s great to see the TEC’s funding condition support university international endeavours. Overall, we consider this a positive move for TEC and for universities, but there are a few stings in the tail in terms of this funding condition. In particular, students must be “ordinarily resident” in New Zealand, the study must be full-time and face-to-face (“not an extramural enrolment” but not further defined) and students must be “studying in a country they are not familiar with”.

While it’s a starting point, as always we need to ensure funding conditions don’t tie institutions down with overly prescriptive compliance requirements, hamstringing the purpose behind the additional funding. It would be good to see a little more flexibility in the context of a sector that has proven itself to be trustworthy.

What would we like to see?  Flexible funding that enables universities to back up some of the of the government’s rhetoric elsewhere. e.g. let’s see funding that enables international work placements as an integral part of the student experience. In the light of the Productivity Commission’s push for less regulation, more flexible funding conditions would be welcomed.

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