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'NZ offers a value-for-money education'

April 14, 2009 13:05 IST
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The current global recession might have taken a heavy toll on Indian students' migration to the much sought-after US and UK, but one country that has remained relatively immune to the meltdown and has reaped rich dividends from student inflow is New Zealand.

Promising the best and affordable education under a safe environment and a relativey easy permanent residency, Kiwiland is an inviting study destination.

This was revealed by student visa consultant Naresh Gulati, CEO of Oceanic Consultants, in an exclusive interview with RMS Atwal.

Excerpts from the interview:

How good is a New Zealand education? Is its education on par with that of the US and the UK?

New Zealand provides opportunities to study under internationally recognised academics and researchers in a wide range of disciplines. Qualifications from New Zealand universities rank with the world's best and have a reputation for being practical and modern. In some niche areas, such as biotechnology, forensic science and marine engineering, New Zealand degrees are acknowledged as world-leading.

The country offers a safe learning environment with excellent study opportunities and support services for international students. Courses are available for academic, professional and vocational studies at New Zealand institutions -- universities, polytechnics and institutes of technology, colleges of education, secondary schools and private training establishments.

An Education NZ study in 2007 compared costs for international students in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the UK and US and found New Zealand to be cheaper in everything except courses for masters' degrees where costs are comparable. However, the student living costs are substantially lower compared to the US and UK. New Zealand produces top graduates who can take their place with confidence in the international arena in many disciplines. Universities like the University of Auckland are ranked among top research institutions of the world. New Zealand definitely offers better value for money to cost-conscious Indian students who at the same time would not like to compromise on the quality of education. Students are allowed to work for 20 hours per week and full-time during vacation. Besides, students get up to one-year work visa after completing the course plus bonus points for migration under skills category.

It also offers international scholarships that reflect the government's commitment to strengthening educational partnerships with other countries and regions. These scholarships aim to share New Zealand's excellent education system with the rest of the world, and bring the best academics from elsewhere to share their knowledge. Up to 100 doctoral and 100 undergraduate students are currently studying under the programme.

Of late, there has been a study shift in students' priorities in favour of New Zealand study. How do you see this changing trend in comparison to Australia?

Both Australia and New Zealand offer a safe learning environment with excellent study opportunities and support services for international students. Academic institutions in both the countries are world class and recognised globally. However, New Zealand enjoys a 20 per cent cost advantage over Australia, which can make a huge difference in these tough times. University education, tuition and accommodation costs on average $NZ 30,000 per year, with tuition costs varying from course to course, generally $NZD 16,000 - 19,000.

Morover, Kiwiland offers a high standard of living in a scenic setting with lot of options for outdoor activities which considerably enhances student experience. It also has a considerably liberal visa policy that encourages students to work in the country after completing their studies. However, Australia remains a popular destination and according to a recent report by Education New Zealand on a comparative basis, New Zealand comes second to Australia when we compare the number of university international students per head of population.

Some Indian students now see New Zealand a 'hot' country for an easy permanent residency (PR). How far is it true?

Compared to the US or UK, the visa and immigration procedure for New Zealand might be little easier. However, we would like to inform prospective students that the procedures are elaborate, time-intensive and points-based, which means students intending to apply for PR would have to accumulate certain number of points just to be eligible to apply. There are different parameters to calculate points -- education and skills being just one of them.

New Zealand is an immigration-friendly country with a requirement for skilled professionals and there's little doubt that those who have graduated from NZ are most suitable migrants as they are New Zealand-qualified, have good English, and have lived in NZ for several years. Students generally get up to one-year work visas after completing the course plus bonus points for migration under skills category.

How is the current economic crunch affecting students' studies and the job situation?

The recession has in fact given a boost to education in New Zealand. International students hit by the world economic crisis are opting to study in New Zealand instead of traditional centres such as Britain and the United States to take advantage of New Zealand dollar's sharply reduced exchange rate. It means a quality education at really good value for money. As per Education New Zealand in the year up to February 1, 2009, Immigration NZ issued 67,530 student visas -- 4,200 more than last year. Many students also prefer to wait out the recession period in a university learning additional skills that will stand them in good stead once this difficult phase is over.

The job situation is equally bad the world over and this situation is not unique to New Zealand alone. However students with advanced degrees from quality institutions and international exposure would always have an edge in the job market at all times as recruiters realise the value they bring to organisations.

Please elaborate on the NZ 'Open Work Permit' programme?

This is a 12-month work permit (aka Graduate Work Permit) issued to students who have successfully completed a qualification at a New Zealand University, which would qualify for points under the Skilled Migrant Category. No job offer is required for this work permit and it provides a pathway to residence under the Skilled Migrant category. If you find a job relevant to your qualification within 12 months you can obtain a further two-year work permit free of charge.

The eligibility conditions are primarily:

  • A qualification from a NZ University or any other New Zealand tertiary institution
  • The qualification should gain points under Skilled Migrant Category
  • The application should be submitted within three months of the expiry date of a valid student permit
  • Evidence of NZ $2,100 in funds
  • Student should not have been previously issued a Graduate Work Permit

Please clarify the IELTS requirements too.

IELTS is an internationally recognised qualification required to gain residency and/or for further studies. Most tertiary institutions in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the UK prefer the IELTS qualification as an indication of English language proficiency. The Academic module of IELTS assesses if a candidate is ready to study or train using the English language at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. The General Training module of IELTS is for immigration purposes in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, work experience or training programmes not at degree levels and to complete Secondary education.

For New Zealand residency, the standard requirement from the New Zealand Immigration Services is an overall band score of 6.5 in the IELTS General or Academic Module. Every academic institution will have a different IELTS requirement and students have to contact the institution applied to find out what the minimum requirements are.

Some countries are imposing fresh visa curbs on prospective oversees students. Will New Zealand follow suit?

The trend is in fact opposite. As I said, student visas to NZ have increased during the last one year. Since NZ is immigration friendly and requires skilled professionals to stimulate and run its economy stringent visa curbs are unlikely.

What advice you have for Indian students so as to save them from possible hassles abroad?

Students should carefully research the institutions and courses that they intend to apply for and future job prospects. It helps to initiate the process a year in advance to give oneself sufficient time for paperwork related to application and immigration formalities. Studying and living abroad in alien conditions is never easy and students should be mentally prepared to adapt to the new country with an open mind. If applying through an education counselor, students should definitely research the organisation's credentials and past record. The number of scholarships is limited and careful financial planning is required to cover for tuition and living expenses.

Although 20 hours of work is permitted for every student it may not necessarily mean that every student would get an on-campus job. Most importantly, it is important to respect the country's laws and customs and one should be well informed about the country before leaving for NZ. However, all institutions of higher education in New Zealand have dedicated offices for international students that look after their welfare, and help students with legal and immigration formalities as well. If one plans in advance, is well informed and is on top of the paperwork required then an education in New Zealand will definitely be an experience of a lifetime.

Backed by over-a-decade of experience and expertise in international education, Oceanic Consultants is a preferred choice of the Indian students planning to study overseas. This education services company provides complete solutions to the students who wish to pursue their higher education abroad.

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