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NZ: 500% return on international work placements investment

The majority of international activities undertaken by New Zealand universities have a positive cumulative benefit to the economy, with work placements revealed as the leading economic contributor according to research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics into global collaboration.

The Assessing returns on international collaboration report, commissioned by Universities New Zealand, found over a 15 year period, investment into an international research collaboration, student exchanges and work placements had positive economic returns.

Work placements while a student is abroad, in particular, saw a return of NZ$5.84 for every dollar invested – with the benefit split evenly between the individual student and the public – while international research collaboration returned $2.46 and exchanges returned $1.06 to the economy.

“We know that there are significant benefits to be had from collaborating, but until now it has been relatively difficult to quantify just what those benefits are, and how they translate to the wider economy,” UNZ executive director Chris Whelan said.

“New Zealand’s taxpayers pay for a fair proportion of this collaboration through government funding. So, it is important that we are able to defend this investment and prove its value to New Zealand.”

While most areas of international collaboration saw positive returns, academic staff exchanges produced an overall loss, with a return of $0.61 for every dollar invested.

The report, however, clarified that many of the benefits of such exchanges sat outside simple economics.

“Not all of the benefits of each type of international collaboration are amenable to direct quantification,” the report reads.

“As such, it is important to take into account these broader social and economic benefits through a separate assessment of qualitative factors.”

Speaking with The PIE, Whelan said due to the limitations of economic analysis, the report also did not reflect the possible ongoing benefits to research which might benefit society.

“On the face of it, it has a negative return, but… there is a whole range of benefits around networks, and those kind of connections, sometimes its exchange of information,” he said.

“It’s an understanding of where the opportunities might be, and they might lead opportunities downstream for joint research or other forms of collaboration.

“Economically, we couldn’t materially get a dollar return from simply sending academics on trips overseas, but in practical terms, we’re absolutely sure those benefits exist.”

A recent report by education marketing consultancy, Studymove, revealed that while the number of domestic New Zealand students going abroad as part of their university education is increasing, the overall proportion of students declined from 2015-2016.