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The opportunity

China is an increasingly competitive market for student recruitment and partnership development. China is the world’s largest source of international students, but the rate of growth in outbound students is slowing, as more students are taking advantage of options to gain a foreign qualification in China. Meanwhile, concerns among graduates around rising unemployment have led the government to investigate which subjects have the highest unemployment rates after graduation. A list of 15 subjects including marketing, tourism management and animation, has been developed, and Chinese universities have been encouraged to scale down offerings in these areas.

As its education system develops, China is seeking greater reciprocity and more in-country provision in its foreign partnerships. Providers have a window of opportunity to develop relationships with local institutions to deliver New Zealand qualifications in-market.



Increasing competition from alternative destinations, and more options for students to gain foreign qualifications in China, requires New Zealand providers to adopt a sophisticated approach to this market.



The solutions for New Zealand’s international education industry development in the China market are best addressed by looking at each educational sector.


High school students

The average age of Chinese international students has been decreasing – with greater numbers of high school (and younger) aged students travelling abroad to study.

Many of these students transfer directly to a higher education institution from high school – a trend that is expected to continue.

This trend has increased market development opportunities for New Zealand secondary schools, English language schools and foundation programmes. The international programmes that Chinese high schools increasingly offer as an alternative to the local university entrance exam, mean Chinese students could be attracted into senior levels at New Zealand high schools or foundation schools.

There is also potential for these institutions to boost recruitment activities and collaborative programmes with Chinese schools. Teacher training and curriculum development consultancy services could also be explored.

New Zealand has active sister city and sister region relationships with Chinese cities and provinces. Schools in particular can use these agreements to develop sister school relationships to develop collaborative programmes with Chinese schools.


Undergraduate Students

Reform of the Chinese national university entrance examination; the Gaokao, are likely to generate an increase in the number of tertiary institutions around the world accepting Gaokao for admission into degree programmes.

To sustain growth in the undergraduate student sector, and remain competitive, New Zealand institutions should consider increasing offshore delivery of Bachelor-level programmes. British, Australian and US tertiary institutions are all increasing their presence in China.

An increased willingness on the part of Chinese students to transfer directly from high school in to a foreign institution offers ample opportunities to enrol high-quality senior high school graduates directly into undergraduate programmes.


Offshore delivery through joint programmes

There are indications that the traditional double-digit growth in the number of Chinese students studying overseas has slowed, with students taking up opportunities to gain a foreign qualification in China. Future growth lies in joint/pathway programmes and articulation agreements. Over half of new Chinese students in the UK transfer from joint/pathway programmes linked to their UK institution.

Jointly-run institutions and programmes include new co-developed institutions and foreign degrees conferred by foreign and Chinese institutions at existing Chinese universities, as well as sub-degree and non-degree courses.

There are some challenges to running in-country joint programmes, with strict regulations and approval procedures governing how they are set up and conducted.

In 2014, the Arrangement to Operationalise the Vocational Education and Training Model Programme was signed between the New Zealand and China ministries of education. The programme provides a framework by which New Zealand providers can engage with their Chinese counterparts with clear government-level support, and provides opportunities for New Zealand providers to share best practice with Chinese counterparts, build capacity and raise the profile of New Zealand among prospective students.

China has 113 cities that have a greater population than New Zealand, and opportunities exist for New Zealand providers outside the traditional hubs of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou


Vocational education and training

China’s shortage of skilled labour means there are more people who see value in vocational qualifications. Increasing numbers of students are now undertaking a vocational qualification after gaining an academic degree.

The Chinese Government has put significant resources into further developing and improving the quality of its own vocational education system, and ‘de-stigmatising’ it as a result. It has identified environmental technology as a key sector for investment, with vocational training playing a critical role in the provision of “green” skills.

China plans to transform around 600 universities across the country into higher education vocational colleges to better meet the economy’s skill need. New Zealand’s expertise in technical and vocational education will be attractive to Chinese providers.

Links between vocational institutions in New Zealand and China were strengthened under an arrangement signed at the eighth New Zealand-China Joint Working Group on Education and Training in November 2014. The arrangement agrees to more collaborative research projects, joint programmes (including the delivery of New Zealand qualifications in China), knowledge-sharing symposia and education development opportunities between New Zealand and Chinese institutions.


Distance education/e-learning

China has huge e-learning potential. The Chinese Government has set a goal of creating a digital learning environment for all Chinese students by 2020, including connecting 500,000 schools with e-learning systems.

However, for international providers there is a restriction because Chinese regulations do not recognise distance-delivered (or mixed-mode) foreign qualifications. New Zealand does have an advantage through the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement, which includes a commitment to progress the recognition of New Zealand qualifications with a distance delivery component.

China’s e-learning sector is open to foreign involvement through both content and consultancy services so, until that recognition is progressed, New Zealand institutions should focus on selling content and training systems.


Higher National Diplomas

Every year thousands of Chinese students study a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Higher National Diploma (HND) in China before going abroad to complete the final year of a Bachelor's Degree.

New Zealand providers that are able to offer pathway agreements for HND qualifications into their Bachelor’s qualifications may be able to attract Chinese HND graduates to New Zealand.


*Source from Education New Zealand official website 


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