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Should I stay or should I go now? Views of international high school students on completing their tertiary education in New Zealand

The aim of this study was to investigate the motivating factors behind the decisions that international high school students make when deciding to come to New Zealand, and their decisions to continue onto tertiary studies in New Zealand or to return home. The rationale is that if these motivating factors are better understood, it might be possible to create an environment in New Zealand tertiary institutions that would encourage more students to come, stay and continue to study here. The investigation used a mixed method design, using both focus groups and an online survey that yielded a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. The findings from the focus groups formed the foundation of the questions for a wider survey of students in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato. The results were discussed using an established push-pull model of international student motivations (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). The results suggest that international students come to New Zealand because it has a good education system and there is a wide range of subjects available. In addition, New Zealand is perceived as clean and beautiful country that can offer a safe environment for international students. Students come to the Bay of Plenty region for the lifestyle and are less likely to continue to tertiary studies in New Zealand than those students who studied in the Waikato region. Furthermore, according to how students explained their future study plans, it was not envisaged that the Bay of Plenty would retain any of the students surveyed, while the Waikato region was set to retain half of the students surveyed in the Waikato. The international students more likely to stay on are Asian—they perceive that the quality of education in New Zealand to be of a high standard and that New Zealand offers a good study environment for international students. These students’ decisions are strongly influenced by their parents, education agents back home and international managers in New Zealand. European students make their own study destination decisions with the support of their parents. They have more confidence in their English ability in comparison to Asian students, but are more likely to return home where they have access to low cost, high quality education. The results also indicate that the vast majority of students made their future study plans before they came to New Zealand. The results furthermore confirm that students who have been in New Zealand for over a year do not see studying in English as a major barrier to completing their studies, but in the case of those leaving, the main attraction is to study in a familiar culture and language context with the support of friends and family. The study considers the complex mesh of push-pull factors and their effect on student decision-making. The results have potentially strong implications for attracting students who are undecided in relation to their future education destination. This is to say, these students may be able to be encouraged to stay if they were offered more access to career advice and if someone from the universities or polytechnics would come and explain the study options to them. The tertiary environment students would thrive in is likely to be one that offers highly regarded international qualifications, a supportive academic environment, financial support, and the opportunity to get out and enjoy New Zealand’s natural environment and interact with New Zealand students.
Type of thesis
Henderson, S. A. (2016). Should I stay or should I go now? Views of international high school students on completing their tertiary education in New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10737
University of Waikato
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