SIT offers free English lessons to Chinese
Author: Joseph Aldridge - SIT Journalism student (published in the Southland Times)
Date posted: 24/03/10
The Southern Institute of Technology is offering free English tuition to Chinese students as part of a programme that appears to be unmatched in New Zealand.
The initiative, which offers 24 weeks of free English language tuition if students sign up for a mainstream course, is targeting students in the lucrative Chinese education market.
SIT is trialling the idea in China in an effort to bring more foreign students to Invercargill.
SIT's international department general manager Bharat Guha said the programme was limited to 100 places and nine students had enrolled already.
"We estimate it will be popular with students, but we'll have to wait and see," Mr Guha said.
"You've no idea how hard it is to get international students to come to Invercargill."
Mr Guha said foreign students generally flocked to well-known destinations such as Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown.
The initiative is an attempt to increase SIT's share of the overseas-student market.
Mr Guha expected students to start arriving in Invercargill in June and July.
The international department contributes only a small percentage of SIT's total income and Mr Guha estimated he would need about 6000 foreign students to give SIT complete financial self-sufficiency.
Education New Zealand spokeswoman Michelle Waitzman, whose organisation is an industry body for education exporters, said foreign students contributed about $2.3 billion to the New Zealand economy annually.
China is the largest source of overseas students for New Zealand institutions and Ms Waitzman said the SIT initiative "probably will have some appeal to Chinese students".
She said polytechnics accounted for only about 14 per cent of the Chinese student market in New Zealand, and she had not heard of any institution offering free English tuition to foreign students.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the only such scheme in New Zealand," Ms Waitzman said.
Venture Southland settlement support co-ordinator Sue Morrison-Bailey said she believed the SIT programme would bring more immigrants to Southland.
She said the SIT initiative was "great for the region", and that in her experience the English language was the biggest problem for Chinese immigrants.