Understand your market, communicate more effectively.


Understand your market, communicate more effectively.

Report from China (November 2014)

Current Situation

Much has been written about China as a market for the recruitment of students, and there are many opinions. However, there are two undisputable facts.

1. Developing relationships (Guan’Xi) with business partners is extremely important, and takes time. In the Chinese system, especially in 2nd and 3rd tier cities, families rarely change their home locations, and most of the children rarely change schools. Most of them go pre-school, primary school, and secondary school, and sometimes even University, with the same people, forging life-long friendships (remembering that the one-child policy means that most of them have no brothers or sisters). In business, a lot of success depends on knowing someone who trusts you, who can introduce you to a third party who trusts them.

It also needs to be understood that China is such a big area, with many different regions having their own local culture. Mandarin was introduced as one way to unify China, but most people speak their own dialect in daily life, and have different daily habits, and ways of thinking. One approach does not suit all areas in China, and successful promotion requires some understanding of these different regional cultures.

Some of our personal connections in China look likely to reap very good rewards.

2. Parents in the rapidly expanding middle class, and those with exposure to western education, are increasingly concerned with the way in which their education system emphasises memorisation, and the intense pressures of the national Gaokao examinations on children. This, together with environmental and food safety concerns, is driving an increasing demand for secondary schooling in western countries, and also increasingly, primary schooling. Parents see education as an investment, and are keen to invest in their children’s future.

FACTORS possibly affecting change

There are many factors affecting change, not the least the immigration policies and settings of our competitor countries.

1.Graduate unemployment and a GAP year

It is difficult for graduates in China to get a good job, and there is no question that “overseas experience” is a big help. Western governments issuing of Working Holiday Visas (NZ= 1000, and fully taken up within hours; Australia just announced 5000) has resulted in an attitude developing that a GAP year is very desirable. If a WHV is not available, then studying a relevant course, with the opportunity to work, is the next best option.


The stereotype of Chinese parents is that they all want their children to be doctors, does have a large element of truth. However, vocational training is becoming more acceptable, and we are helping one of our agents to develop a pathway from a Travel College in China to one in New Zealand. At degree level, we are working with one University to promote a pathway from studying Food Science in China, to Grad Dip in Wine Science in New Zealand. 


Universities in China have a 4 year bachelor degree, and many, particularly at the top level, have developed 3+1 or 2+2 programmes with off-shore partners. They negotiate an Articulation Agreement whereby the student then gets 2 degrees.

Some universities outside of the top level are seeking good quality tertiary level partners in Western countries, to enhance their reputation and improve their own academic performance. Many plan to send their current students (who have good English skills) to study aboard for a half year period during their 4 year university study. They hope students can gain overseas study experience and build up confidence and competitiveness when they graduate from their university. They don’t need an Articulation Agreement, but they do need an agreement on Credit Recognition. This should lead more opportunities for NZ institutions to get more short term tertiary level students from China in different subjects.

4.Regulation of student recruitment

Business in China is highly regulated, but the government is trying to find ways of making that more efficient. Up until now, any agents who wish to recruit students to send overseas must have a licence from central government, and these have been difficult to obtain. Consequently, there is a whole network of “unofficial” agents, who cannot advertise, and either send students directly to schools with whom they have contacts, or act as a sub-agent to the big licensed agents. These big chain agencies are dependent on the sub-agents, even though they are in fact acting illegally.

Central government has recently instituted a trial of devolving that licensing to 10 of the Provincial governments, who require the agents to pay a bond, to ensure ethical behaviour. The bond required by each province varies from 50,000RMB (NZ$10,000) to 1.5 million RMB (NZ$300,000).  The agents may have sub-agents, but they need to be registered with the licensee, and all accounts must go through the licensee in that province, to ensure the provincial government maximises their tax income. It is expected that provincial governments will be more rigorous in policing the industry than has been the case in the past.

One consequence is that some smaller agents feel more confident in establishing new branches and expanding, and we are looking forward to working with a couple of these.

Our Strategy

1. Use of digital media for generic promotion of

  • New Zealand as a study destination to provide quality added-value to a students’ education, but at our member schools in particular.
  • The opportunities for post-study work in New Zealand, and particularly the Study-to-Residence pathway.

2. Identify agents in China who will work with our group, in particular in promotional activities specifically in support of our member schools. Ideally those agents will have offices or branches in second and third tier cities, where we can also actively promote ourselves.

3. Identify agents who are looking to expand their branch networks under the new regulatory regime.

4. Identify agents who are active in promoting other countries, but not currently promoting New Zealand, or at least not effectively promoting New Zealand

5. Identify institutions in China and in NZ in which we can develop pathway programmes, with either Articulation Agreements with both parties, or Credit Recognition by the Chinese University

6. Develop a market visit programme that focusses on

  • March: students who will finish in July, and already plan to go overseas then
  • June: students who have finished the Gaokao exams, and are considering their options
  • October: students who have finished, and plan to go overseas in January


Bruce Cleland


© Choose New Zealand 2014

Some institutions we work with