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New Zealand, Aotearoa (the contemporary Māori-language name for New Zealand), affectionately known as The Land of the Long White Cloud. This pristine archipelago has been known by many different names over the years. However, what has remained steadfast is its commitment to providing world-class higher education to students both domestically and from abroad.

Despite being home to eight globally renowned and recognised universities, New Zealand has long competed with larger, time-honoured destination markets to attract international students. However, its safe, welcoming, and comparatively affordable reputation has seen a steadily increasing flow of international students in recent decades.

New Zealand, a nation of just over 5 million people, boasts a near-universal reputation for business, with Auckland serving as its primary entrepôt and centre of commerce. In 2019, the World Bank ranked New Zealand as number one globally for ease of doing business. It was also ranked second on both the Corruption Perception Index, and the Democracy Index, and fourth on the Index of Economic Freedom.

This coupled with its snow-capped mountains, windswept shores, towering waterfalls, and crystalline fjords, for which it has consistently been ranked one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world, New Zealand is sure to whet anyone’s appetite for opportunity and experience.

In this article, we will take a deep dive into New Zealand’s higher education landscape by unpacking exactly what makes this island country a world-class study destination, and in what areas it must improve to attract more prospective students. We will also unpack on-the-ground insights from IDP counsellors in New Zealand’s most popular source markets.

Higher Educational Offer

New Zealand institutions have been consistently lauded for their high quality, with all universities ranked in both the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education Rankings. These institutions boast highly qualified teachers, excellent teaching methods, well-equipped facilities, and globally recognised degrees.

Data from our latest international student research, Emerging Futures 3, showed 49% of respondents who chose New Zealand as their first-choice study destination attributed their choice to ‘High quality of education’, while 41% said it was New Zealand’s ‘support for international students’.

New Zealand also boasts a world-class healthcare system, evidenced by its rank inside the top 20 of the World Index of Healthcare Innovation, and is a drawcard for international students looking to study in the medical and healthcare fields.

According to our IQ Demand+ data, which captures insights from a student’s first digital search through to them arriving on campus, Health and Medicine is overwhelmingly the most popular subject area for those looking to study in New Zealand, with a 29.04% search share. This is followed by Applied and Pure Sciences, and Business and Administrative Studies.

Likewise, Medicine was the most popular sub-discipline with a 10.10% share of demand, with most applicants coming from India.

Interestingly, our IQ data shows greater diversity of overall subject area demand among students from India than those from New Zealand itself.

Post-Study Employment Opportunities

With Emerging Futures 3 showing post-graduation employment opportunities to be among students’ top motivations, it’s critical for a top study destination like New Zealand to maintain equitable and competitive post-study work rights. International students in New Zealand who have completed a PhD, master’s, or bachelor’s degree will be eligible for at least three years of post-study work rights, which is level with Canada’s offering, and more than the two years offered by the UK. However, visas are more variable for those who have completed diplomas, with successful applicants only eligible to stay for an equal length of time as their studies.

As previously mentioned, New Zealand’s reputation for world-class healthcare makes it an attractive destination for those looking to study Health and Medicine. Consequently, Emerging Futures 3 found 64% of respondents looking to obtain a New Zealand post-study work visa said the easier job market entry which this visa allowed made it most attractive, followed by the work experience opportunities it affords. Respondents also chose post-graduate work rights as the equal-top indicator of good graduate outcomes at New Zealand institutions.

Student Support and Mental Health

New Zealand has a long-standing reputation as a welcoming and supportive society. [AG1] [VD2] This attitude towards student support and mental health is perhaps best reflected by the New Zealand government’s $25 million 2020 Tertiary Student Wellbeing package, which introduced enhanced mental health services to its eight universities. Although there is still more work needed to encourage international students to engage with mental health support services that are readily accessible to them, we are already seeing a positive impact. Emerging Futures 3 found that 84% of those who had accessed mental health support rated these services as having ‘met’, ‘exceeded’, or ‘greatly [AG3] exceeded’ their expectations.

However, available services go beyond mental health. Emerging Futures 3 showed 17% of respondents rated their institution’s financial support as having ‘Greatly exceeded expectations’. A further 40% of respondents who chose New Zealand as their first-choice destination said they had accessed post-graduation careers advice, while 35% accessed study skills support, and 30% accessed support in finding part-time work whilst studying.

Student Satisfaction

Most international students who study in New Zealand report having largely positive experiences, which particularly rings true for Malaysian students. According to Emerging Futures 2, from August 2022, an impressive 94% of Malaysian students rated New Zealand as being a 'Safe country for international students', while 72% of the same cohort considered New Zealand's education be of 'high quality'. Students from the Philippines had similar high praise, with 74% also singling out New Zealand for being a safe country, and 70% for having high quality education.

Furthermore, of the students who chose New Zealand as a first-choice destination, 90% said they were 'very satisfied' with their overall learning experience, compared with only 10% who said they were 'somewhat satisfied'.

Through the Lens of IDP Counsellors


India is by far New Zealand’s most popular source market. This is reflected by our IQ data which shows that Indian students have a near-equal, if not greater, share of subject demand than New Zealander students. IDP counsellors attribute New Zealand’s popularity in the sub-continent to its high-quality education, employment opportunities, safety for international students, and natural beauty.

However, Pratibha Sen, Destination Director at IDP Education South Asia, has advised that although overall satisfaction is high among current international students, awareness of New Zealand as potential study destination needs improvement. “The awareness of New Zealand is still low. They need to improve visa turnaround times, provide more scholarships, and showcase testimonials of successful Indian students who previously studied in New Zealand. Highlighting such positive experiences could reinforce future awareness campaigns.”


In addition to its stunning natural scenery, IDP Indonesia’s Country Destination Manager, Elsa Amiyanti, said New Zealand has many attractive qualities for Indonesian students, particularly PhD students. “It has an affordable living cost for PhD students who bring a dependent on the dependent child student visa, in which their children can study there and may be treated as a domestic fee-paying student,” Ms Amiyanti said. “This means they don’t have to pay tuition fees to send their child to a primary or secondary school.”

Ms Amiyanti said New Zealand could capitalise further on this important market through initiatives such as “enhanced marketing activities, faster admission turnaround times, and more promotional efforts pinpointing the benefits of living in New Zealand as an international student.”

With a nation-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Indonesia and Universities New Zealand (UNZ) currently being developed to support the flow of international students, there is potential to see significant growth and student mobility between the two nations.


Thailand’s IDP counsellors also felt New Zealand institutions should develop stronger overseas marketing efforts, with targeted social media campaigns, online advertising, and regular attendance of education fairs and events to attract prospective Thai students. More scholarships and improved financial assistance were also suggested. IDP Thailand Destination Manager, Chayanuch Mongkhonsuksawat, said “New Zealand has tighter requirements, less school options, and higher tuition fees compared to Australia, especially the tuition fee for ELICOS & VET sector. However, New Zealand still has several attractive qualities for Thai students, including part-time work opportunities and the three years of post-graduate work permitted by their post-study work visa.”

New Zealand and Thai institutions largely enjoy close relations, which is evidenced by MoU’s between Mahidol University and University of Otago, as well as between Chulalongkorn University and the University of Auckland. The New Zealand government also offers the ASEAN Scholar Awards which provide full tuition fees, a living allowance, and other support for postgraduate study in New Zealand to students from ASEAN countries, including Thailand.


Despite the island country continuing to face challenges to rebound post-pandemic, New Zealand’s commitment to higher education is reflected by the internationally recognised standing of its institutions, and the welcoming and caring nature of its people.

To strengthen their brand awareness, New Zealand institutions can benefit from targeted, strategic marketing initiatives, and must ensure they build a strong presence in key source markets, particularly diverse markets such as Indonesia and Thailand.

While other destination markets may build awareness around their institution’s long-standing reputations, New Zealand can do more to broaden its value proposition to future students and families. Its combination of safety, natural beauty, career opportunities, and world-class education should be central to an institution’s future marketing and recruitment campaigns.

IDP is proud partner of all New Zealand universities and a large range of cross-sector education providers.

Vincent Dwyer
Vincent Dwyer 14 August 2023