I was mildly surprised to see Dave Guerin over at Education Directions reporting that international student numbers are way up for tertiary institutions in New Zealand. Looking only at the 8 universities, international student numbers are up 4% on average. Here they're down considerably, or at least they are in Commerce.
It may just be a coincidence, but Canterbury also recently introduced some reasonably strict academic progression standards. Now, I don't know how many of the excluded students were international as compared to domestic, but it previously seemed as though there were some international students who cared more about being enrolled for courses than showing up for exams; whether this had anything to do with student visa requirements is beyond my understanding. With the progression standards in place, perhaps they're not there any more. Previously, our aggregate stats showed a fair number of failing students, but a lot of these were more ghost than student. A cynic might think these to be the ideal kind of student: they pay their fees - around $15,000 per year for international students - but impose no costs.
It's of course possible that the longer term effect winds up being an increase in overall numbers, overall revenues, and a more pleasant financial situation. Especially in a long game where government funding gets tied to student performance measures. I'm not clear, however, on whether funding through the student performance component of tertiary funding is calculated only on the performance of students who draw subsidy - the domestic students - or across all students. If it's across all students and if the student performance component is large enough, then losses of non-performing international students may be optimal. I'd be surprised if non-performance by an international student would reduce the student performance funding component by more than the $15,000 or so the student pays in annual international tuition fees, but it's possible. And maybe our drop in international students while the overall sector sees reasonably strong increases is due to something else entirely. Further speculation seems unwise.