Wellington Scoop

Fixing the problem in 90 minutes

by Lindsay Shelton
The city council is holding an ‘education summit’ tomorrow morning. It’s to focus on solving the problem that Wellington isn’t attracting enough overseas students. But the chances of fixing the problem don’t seem to be too great, because the summit will run for only 90 minutes.

The council announcement of the summit is convoluted:

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Thomas Pippos, Deputy Chair of Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, will present on the work currently being undertaken with the Education sector, in conjunction with WREDA, to promote economic growth in the Capital through maximising the opportunities available in the Education sector.

But the “work currently being undertaking” isn’t bringing the expected results. The mayor skirts around the problem:

“There’s a wonderful range of education opportunities in Wellington but not enough international students are coming. While international student numbers have remained relatively steady over the past five years at around 5500 students, other regions have grown their international student market faster and our economic diversification demands that we do much better.”

The ever-watchful Chamber of Commerce comes up with more precise statistics of how Wellington is falling behind the rest of the country, in spite of all the opportunities that have been maximised. John Milford states:

“Our growth in this market was up just 2 per cent in the past year compared with 13 per cent nationally. That’s not good enough for a region with probably the best and most diverse education offering in New Zealand. Our universities, polytechnics, private specialist schools and secondary schools all offer subjects that international students want, but we’re really struggling to keep pace, and that’s the real frustration.”

He has high expectations for what he wants to be achieved by tomorrow’s 90 minute event:

“There must be a serious commitment by the city, education institutions, business and other stakeholders if we are to make the most of what we have. Success in this area will mean a genuine and long-lasting boost to the city’s and the region’s economic growth. We need to come out of this summit with tangible outcomes, and hopefully a concrete plan on how we can develop the international student sector.”

The mayor also has high hopes:

“The Education Summit will … define the challenges we face, bring together our key stakeholders and set a clear direction for increasing the value of our international student market.”

After the mayor and WREDA’s deputy chair have “presented” (and apologised for their lack of success?) there’s to be a panel discussion by five education leaders. After which, it seems, the “key leaders of the city’s growth and education sector” who are also described as “the Capital’s foremost minds in education and economic development” will have to come up with new ideas to persuade more overseas students to come here.

It sounds like a tough assignment to be completed in an hour and a half. Less than that, in fact, once you deduct the duration of the presentation by Celia and Thomas, and the time that’s used by the five panel members.

Perhaps they’ll allow an extension of time? Or will they lock the doors till there’s agreement on what needs to be done?

UPDATE: After 90 minutes, they agreed they need a plan


  1. anon, 18. August 2015, 17:08

    Extending Wellington’s runway will put the city on a level playing field with Auckland and Christchurch in terms of access for Asian students.

  2. Traveller, 18. August 2015, 17:14

    Why can’t students land on the present Wellington runway?

  3. Anon, 18. August 2015, 17:47

    Because they have to transfer through another city, usually Auckland, which puts Wellington on the same tier as Palmerston North, Dunedin and Hamilton in terms of connection to Asia.

    Wellington markets itself as a small (200k population, even though of course the metro population is more than double this) second tier New Zealand city in Asia, and like it or not that is how it is regarded.

  4. KB, 18. August 2015, 19:11

    This may be completely out of the hands of anyone to fix. You can’t fight the real fear a potential international student (and their family) has of living in an earthquake prone city, after international students died in the Christchurch quake. If you are thinking of studying in New Zealand, the most obvious safest city is Auckland, which also has the better climate. These concerns play even more into the decisions of Chinese parents, with the one child policy making safety concerns the paramount factor in choosing a location.

  5. Nora, 18. August 2015, 22:49

    The Mayor and her mates should read the press release from WelTec stating “that student numbers are at an all time high at the Wellington Institute of Technology”. He also stated that Wellington is “a great destination for international students as we have a beautiful and safe city with fantastic services and activities”.

  6. Wellington Chamber, 19. August 2015, 8:56

    EducationNZ chair Charles Finny talks sense – Wellington can do much better, & must do much better, in attracting international students. [via Twitter]

  7. lindsay, 19. August 2015, 9:23

    Yes but … what is he suggesting should be done?

  8. Andrew, 20. August 2015, 13:13

    And don’t forget to moderate UP international students that are below the line to pass…. we need your fees, and it makes our institution look like it is performing better than it is. Cynical much?

  9. Dr Sea Rotmann, 20. August 2015, 16:08

    Of course someone had to mention that you need to extend the runway to bring more international students here. Obviously the cheapest solution, for only $300m+! I’ve been an international student and could afford to fly home only every 2-3 years. The reason why I chose where I studied was the courses that were offered and the location, not the fact that I had to take between 5-7 flights to get there. I often took more flights/longer routes because the only thing I cared about was the cheapest ticket. The tickets out of Wellington will never be as cheap as out of Auckland especially with Air NZ aggressively outcompeting any new airline dumb enough to spend $400m+ to move its operations here. Really daft argument. Spending more time than 90 minutes with your education providers and experts would be a much cheaper and more useful option…