Issue 18: 26 September 2008

Many of this year’s graduands are overseas students and we take no less pride in their achievements than in those of New Zealand students. The presence of overseas students at the University of Auckland is welcomed and it was in 1969 that the University Council approved the recommendation of the Senate that about 5 percent of the student roll be overseas students. Last year some 500 students were enrolled across nearly all faculties and the majority were from South East Asian or Pacific Island countries.

Investment in education is a concept commonly accepted when applied to New Zealand students but is not often considered with respect to overseas students. Nevertheless potential national and international benefits are perceived by many countries that provide higher education for non-national students. Unquantifiable educational, cultural, social, economic, commercial and political benefits may accrue. Most universities put foremost among these the realisation of status as an international community, fostering mutual respect of ideas and friendly relations between races and people.

Thus, I am a strong advocate of having a significant number of overseas students attend our universities. Recently I attended the Executive Heads meeting of the Association of Commonwealth Universities in Hong Kong. At that meeting concern was expressed that a number of Commonwealth countries have lately adopted policies that place severe constraints on the mobility of students between Commonwealth countries. The Conference expressed their deep concern that these constraints will have a severely damaging effect, not only on the development of higher education across the Commonwealth but also on valued and time-honoured links between Commonwealth countries, and therefore on the Commonwealth itself.

Already there are signs that the number of overseas students applying to enrol at our universities is reducing and I do not believe that such a trend is in the national interest.

Extracts from “Overseas students are a fine investment too” Address by the Vice-Chancellor, Colin Maiden, to a graduation ceremony in May 1981, University of Auckland News, 11, 4, June 1981, pp. 12-13