With tightened visa norms in the UK and crackdown of the U.S. universities, students from India are looking for new shores to pursue their higher education dreams. New Zealand, which was not the first choice of study destination for most Indian students until a few years back, has become one of the major destinations for Indian international students. From 11,791 in 2010, the number of the Indian students travelling to New Zealand rose to 29, 235 by 2015.
Located in Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, Unitec Institute of Technology, the largest technical institutions in the country, has also seen a considerable increase in its Indian student population in the recent years. "Education is a great way to build relationships between countries and develop a greater understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. Our advantage globally is that New Zealand is a safe and welcoming country with a growing economy. Here, we celebrate diversity and New Zealand has recently been listed as the best place to live," says Dr Rick Ede, Chief Executive, Unitec Institute of Technology.
Unlike many higher education institutions in New Zealand, Unitec has been operating successfully in the Indian market for nearly 20 years and they have been continually looking to renew and refine their approach. "All students at Unitec can access a range of free support services to help them succeed in their studies. These include counselling, budgeting advice, spiritual support and career advice. In 2017, we are also launching a scholarship program for high-performing students from India," shares Dr Ede.
India is currently the second-largest student body at Unitec, which hosts students from more than 80 countries. Unitec offers an environment where all students can find their niche, build lifelong friendships and develop business acquaintances. "An Indian student gets the opportunity to study in a vibrant multi-cultural environment in a super diverse city. Unitec's applied teaching-learning style equips these students to achieve their very best and we ensure that they are able to develop transferrable knowledge and skills that can be applied directly in the work place," says Dr Ede.
Unitec has over 130 programs across a number of disciplines from Certificate, Bachelor, Diploma, Masters and Doctorate level. The most popular amongst Indian students include Bachelor of Technology, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Computing Systems, Construction Project Management, Architecture/Business and Finance. The standard of these programs is on par with international universities and the cost works out to be far more affordable whilst offering a much more personal experience.
"Comparing to the studies back in India, Unitec offers lots of opportunities to understand our potential through practical exposure. I think the facilities, environment and the resources here are much better than what I had experienced in India. Now, I feel more at home here," says Navjot Singh Gulati, who is now undergoing Unitec's Graduate Diploma in Business - Operations after working for over six years as an operations and SAP consultant in India.
Unitec offers practical, hands-on education with the opportunity to experience local work placements with leading New Zealand organisations, enhancing employment prospects. Minnu Lesly, an engineering graduate from Kerala, India says, "I joined in Unitec February 2016 to do Graduate Diploma in Business (Operations) and I find that the education here is very different here. Instead of exams, we had assignments and each assignment gave us a more practical learning experience. The institution has got good facilities and supportive staff in every department to solve students' problems. Unitec is very connected with industries and the regular professional development events gave me the opportunity to meet up with officials and make connections with industry. I had a great learning experience from Unitec."
Through the combination of applied learning, industry partnerships and high quality education, Unitec students have access to a unique understanding of the working environment. At present, the institute is working to further develop and test new learning and teaching models that will be adopted by all Unitec programs over the next three years. The models offer a mix of on-campus, online and work-based learning opportunities, and employ innovative practices such as team-and-project-based learning, gamification and studio-based learning. They are designed to enhance the learning process and build vital skills such as teamwork, problem solving and collaboration. "We believe that Unitec is leading the way in this space in New Zealand and take pride in our staff members, who are being recognised at an industry level for pushing the boundaries in the teaching and learning field," says Dr Ede.
In addition to that, Unitec has many MoUs with other tertiary institutes, governments and commercial entities around the world. A few collaborations of note include the Computational Intelligence and Environmental Engineering Research Centre, the Cyber Security Research Centre and work on noise-cancelling technology. "There are ample, exciting opportunities out there, however they go hand in hand with hard work and a positive attitude. In order to succeed, you need to develop resilience and be able to assimilate into life at Unitec and wider New Zealand. Unitec provides a comprehensive support network for all students and its career centre helps mentor, support and prepare students for the work place," concludes Dr Ede.
Dr Rick Ede, Chief Executive
Dr Rick Ede has been the Chief Executive of Unitec Institute of Technology in New Zealand since April 2008. He holds a Master's degree and a Doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Waikato, and is an alumnus of the London Business School. Dr Ede is passionate about the transformative power of education. He has been instrumental in helping turn Unitec into an institution that delivers world-class vocational and applied professional education and training built on a foundation of work-integrated learning.