Future Bleak For Language Schools

Future bleak for language schools

4:00AM Monday Mar 09, 2009
By Lincoln Tan
New Zealand Herald

The number of international students in New Zealand may be up, but the future looks bleak for the industry as forward bookings in English language schools take a dip.

A survey conducted by English New Zealand, a body representing private and public English schools, has found 55 per cent of schools reporting forward bookings to be down on last year with 30 per cent reporting similar trading.

“The future is looking bloody dark and some schools in Auckland are really looking very precarious,” said Rob McKay, chairman of English New Zealand.

Mr McKay said 54 per cent of international students began with English language study, so what the figure showed was that there would be a negative flow-on to all sectors of export education.

“At a time when the significantly devalued Kiwi dollar should be attracting more students … the past Government's immigration blockages on top of the global economic crisis are hitting home.”

Mr McKay said the sector would be lobbying the National-led Government to remove the ban on part-time work for English language student visa holders who had not passed their English language test, to put the industry on a level playing field with Australia.

“This regulation funnels students to Australia … offshore education consultants report 25 per cent of students seeking to study English in New Zealand are diverted to Australia or other competing countries.”

He said this would equate to the loss of 870 jobs in schools and an overall loss of 3700 fulltime jobs and a loss of $180 million in GDP terms.

But Education New Zealand, which markets New Zealand as a study destination overseas, says it has done similar surveys, and found the outcome to be quite different.

“People are worried about forward bookings, but most of the institutions that we have surveyed, and we have surveyed quite a few, remain pretty upbeat,” said chief executive Robert Stevens.

He said it was difficult to quantify English language students in New Zealand, because most came on a visitor visa, and the numbers could not be equated with the number of student visas issued by Immigration NZ.