Chinese students: why do they come and how can we help them succeed?

Pam Malcolm
Anthony Ling

Abstract: There has been a huge increase in the number of international, full-fee paying students enrolled in New Zealand tertiary institutes in the last eight years. In 2001 the International student market contributed an estimated $1 billion to the NZ economy and earned as much foreign exchange as the wool industry and four times that of the wine industry. Although, overall, International students only constitute approximately 4% of the total student body at NZ tertiary institutes, in many main-centres this number appears much higher. In 2001 approximately forty-one percent of International students came from China. This has increased from less than 2% in 1994. In this paper, we have investigated why there has been such a dramatic increase in the number of students from China. The primary reasons are the ease of obtaining a visa and the low cost of fees.

We also investigated what Chinese students liked, disliked and thought could enhance their learning experience. Our investigation revealed that students enjoyed the low cost of living and low fees plus the weather and the general environment but felt that New Zealand was too quiet and boring. To enhance their learning experience students requested additional language support and extended library opening hours to enable them to study in a quiet environment away from crowded student accommodation or homestays. As students’ language proficiency improves their grades will also improve. Students have tried to improve their English by watching television and speaking with classmates in English. It is important that international students and teaching staff are supported. Initiatives introduced include extensive training for staff and additional class contact hours, help clinics and on-line resources for students.