India is fourth among New Zealand's top 20 source markets for its universities and higher education institutes with its student business valued at over $60 million a year.
Compared to just 164 Indian students in New Zealand in 1998, there were over 3,000 approved applications for student visas and permits from Indian students in the financial year that just ended, New Zealand's Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard said, adding that it was a nine percent increase over the previous year.
Addressing a meeting of the India-New Zealand Business Council in Auckland Thursday, Mallard said that only five years ago, the Indian market was worth just $19.5 million and it did not figure on the top 20 list.
"This reflects the efforts of our educational institutions and the commitment of the government to developing this sector," Mallard said.
He attributed the growth in numbers to the revised and improved student visa policy that was implemented last year and which he had announced in India.
"That announcement generated so much interest that the Education New Zealand website was inundated and had to close temporarily," he said.
Stating that India has been identified as a key market in New Zealand's international education sector, the minister said that, while the numbers are currently small, there is enormous potential for this to increase.
Lauding the role of Indian students, Mallard said, "Indian students make an ongoing contribution to New Zealand as many choose to stay on after their studies and help meet our talent and skills requirements. This trend is more marked from India than any other significant market."
He said that the New Zealand government has decided to invest an additional $200,000 on a second marketing campaign in India promoting New Zealand as a destination of choice for tertiary education.
"We believe this will further strengthen our educational ties with India," he said.
On the other hand, there is also increasing interest in India from New Zealand tertiary providers, the minister said.
"A recent Ministry of Education report showed these providers ranked India their second most important partner country after China," he said.
He said that more and more institutions are looking at new models for offshore delivery of education.
"The Universal College Of Learning led the way in 2004 by introducing an approved degree programme in India with the Canadian Institute of International Studies," he said.
He also mentioned the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed earlier this year by the Auckland University of Technology with the Institute of Finance and International Management in Bangalore to deliver the university's MBA programme in India.
"Last year, Victoria University of Wellington signed agreements on staff and student exchanges and scientific and educational cooperation with one of the Indian Institutes of Management in Kerala," he said.
Stating that New Zealand is waiting with interest to see the shape of a bill on foreign education providers in India being prepared by the Indian government, Mallard said, "With around 500 million of the Indian population under 25 years of age, I hope there will be a chance for New Zealand to participate in the education arena in India - this would be a win-win situation for both countries."