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Song Jia Wen, from Dalian, China, enjoys being in Southland.

"I really like it," he says. "The people are friendly."

Yet there's one aspect he doesn't like.

"But not so much the weather."

Song is one of a growing number of international students in their first year of study at the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) in Invercargill. Next year, he wants to study Information Technology (IT).

More international students than ever are studying in New Zealand, according to Education New Zealand's International Education Snapshot Report.

The report, released on Thursday, revealed there were 11,760 more international students in New Zealand during the first eight months of 2015 than there were during the same period in 2014.

There were 104,418 total international students throughout New Zealand in the first eight months of 2015, a 13 per cent increase from 2014.

In Southland, international student enrolment was up by 6 per cent, with 63 more students from overseas in classes.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds said more international students benefited Southland in many ways.

"Since 2008, SIT has had a planned strategy to grow international student numbers to meet well-documented skill and labour force shortages predicted for Southland," she said.

"We have successfully achieved double figure growth year-on-year since 2008. The additional international students enable SIT to offer a broader and higher range of programmes to our domestic students."

There were other advantages as well, Simmonds said.

"There are several programmes which would have insufficient domestic students to enable the programme to run and so being able to recruit international students to add to the cohort for these classes makes them viable," she said.

"Secondly, our domestic students need to be work ready from a global perspective. They need to have the skills to be able to interact with a variety of ethnicities and understand that businesses and industries operate in different ways in different cultures. Having international students in classes with our domestic students provides these differing global perspectives for each to learn from."

International students also contributed to the Southland economy, she said.

"Financially, the international students make a valuable contribution to both SIT and the wider Southland community," Simmonds said.

"A BERL (Business and Economic Research Limited) report commissioned by SIT in 2013 showed that our international students added $19.9 million to the Southland economy annually and created 126 full-time equivalent jobs.

"SIT's international student numbers have increased since 2013, so we would expect the financial impact to be even greater now."

Most international students at SIT were aged between their late 20s and 40 years old, Simmonds said. Many of them also had families, she said.

"This means we have more families in our communities contributing to our schools and other community organisations."

Much of the growth in international students was fuelled by China and India. The region with the largest percentage increase was Marlborough, which saw a 66 per cent rise in international enrolments (42 more students).

Otago had a 1 per cent increase, with 36 more international students.

International enrolment was up 10 per cent in Australia during the first right months of 2015 as compared to 2014, with 53,491 more international students in Australian schools.

BY THE NUMBERS: INTERNATIONAL STUDENT GROWTH IN NZ

6 - percentage increase in number of international students in Southland
63 - overall increase in number of international students in Southland
11,760 - more international students in NZ in 2015 than 2014
104,418 - total international students in New Zealand in the first eight months of 2015


Ben Mack

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