Foreign students help boost Canty economy by $202m
13 June 2003 The Press

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Foreign students injected more than $202 million into the Canterbury economy last year.

Figures commissioned by Education Christchurch, a trust set up to support export education in the Christchurch area, show more than 15,500 students came to study in Canterbury last year and contributed $202,545,386.

Foreign students' economic impact on New Zealand as a whole was estimated to be $1.7 billion in the year to July 2002 a figure that could rise to $5 billion within the next 10 years.

Patrick O'Connor, director of PEETO Asia Pacific English Language College and the English language school representative on the board of Education Christchurch, said few Cantabrians would know the export education industry was worth so much.

"I think our community needs to be aware that it's a huge industry for us as a city."

Export education was now one of the top 10 foreign exchange earners for the country bigger than wool and wine but people rarely saw it in the same league as those industries, he said.

"The concept of education being an export when the students come here is a strange one (but) those students huddled down Hereford Street are boosting our economy."

Schools reaped about $40m in fees from the influx of students to the region, while a "conservative" estimate calculated a five-fold economic contribution as students paid out even more money on retail, property, entertainment, transport, and dining.

The industry was unlikely to make the same return this year, however, as English language schools in particular had been hit by a downturn in foreign student numbers in response to Sars and the high New Zealand dollar.

"We can expect that every few years there will be a cycle of downturn," Mr O'Connor said. "A few years ago it was the Asian economic downturn and a few years from now it might be war in Korea.

"But it will still be a major contributor to the Canterbury economy."

Worldwide the number of students seeking education outside their own country is expected to grow from 1.8m students in 2000 to 7.7m by 2025.