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10 Mar 2016
There was a significant increase in the number of international student visas issued for Wellington last year, bringing both financial and cultural benefits to the capital.
New Zealand Immigration figures show 5,643 student visas were issued for Wellington in 2015, an increase of 12% (592) compared to the previous year.
First time international student visas in Wellington also increased – by 19% (496) to 3,042 over 2014. First time student visas are an indicator of growth as they represent new students entering the international education pipeline.
Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) Chief Executive Chris Whelan says the result is encouraging and provides a launching pad for growth.
“If all of those further 592 student visas issued are converted to enrolments at Wellington institutions, it could benefit the economy through an additional gross spending of almost $17 million in the region.”
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown welcomed the growth, along with plans to grow numbers further.
“Hosting international students is great for the local Wellington economy, with students estimated to each spend an average of $28,000 a year on fees and living expenses.
“International students also bring an important dynamic to the city, enhancing the cultural fabric of the coolest little capital in the world,” she says.
Mr Whelan says it a fantastic start but it’s only the beginning.
“There is much more scope for growth and it’s an area we are strongly focusing on in partnership with Education New Zealand, Wellington City Council and the region’s institutions.”
Importantly, international students turn into both international ambassadors and skilled talent for Wellington, Mr Whelan says.
“As well-educated students return to their homelands to become influential in business, politics, or other sectors, they spread the word about Wellington, our education system, and the wonderful Wellington lifestyle. You can’t put a dollar value on that – it’s invaluable.
“Students may also remain or return to work in Wellington. Improving the pathways and conversion into employment will be a key focus area for us in the coming years as we continue working with employers to identify and plug workforce gaps.”
Wellington city councillor and chair of the council’s economic growth committee Jo Coughlan said attracting international students was a key component of the council’s Economic Development Strategy.
“Increasing our share of international students is incredibly important for our economy and a real priority for us.
“To-date Wellington has been underperforming in this area, so it’s hugely encouraging to see there is a now a sharper focus on international student attraction, and that we are all pulling together to tell the Wellington story and attract more talent and investment to Wellington.”
The news comes hot on the heels of Statistics New Zealand figures revealing an 86% increase in trans-Tasman migration to Wellington since 2012.
“Wellington is firing on a number of cylinders at the moment, but the job is far from done,” Mr Whelan says.
“WREDA is currently working on a number of strategies and action plans to further build on the momentum across migration, international education and the visitor economy, as well as in attracting further foreign direct investment. There are some incredible exciting and busy months and years ahead.”