Case study

Social Licence: Determining a link to Education New Zealand’s new social licence narrative


COVID-19 has created one of the biggest upheavals for international education, and changed the face of the sector. In order to rebuild New Zealand’s international education sector to ensure a diverse, resilient and sustainable future, we need to raise public awareness of the broad array of benefits that international education brings to people and the planet.

That’s why Education New Zealand developed a new narrative for how we talk about why international education is good for New Zealanders and national wellbeing. This is called the social licence story framework, and it can be used by a diverse range of people and organisations to talk about how – at the core – our International Education Experience is proudly connecting New Zealand thinking with the world.

The stories of the multifaceted benefits of international education are hiding within your business or organisation. This fit-for-purpose narrative encourages you to apply a critical eye to move beyond the well-known economic benefits to reveal all that New Zealand’s international education offering brings to our country and the world.

The eights pillars of telling the story of New Zealand internaitonal education experiences

Welcoming back international students through our borders

As we prepare for more international students to return to New Zealand, we want to ensure these important guests are made to feel welcome and appreciated by Kiwis. Each time students arrive on our shores, we have a moment to spotlight why international education is great for our communities and the country.

To offer a successful regional storytelling example, international students have long been a key part of Hawke’s Bay’s social, cultural and economic fabric. In 2019, the region had about 1300 international students, where 40 per cent where in schools and 60 per cent in tertiary education. These international students supported 730 jobs, contributed about $60m to the local economy, developed strong relationships with locals and volunteered for local organisations and businesses.

In March 2022, to celebrate the pending arrival of more students to the region, Learning Hawke’s Bay found an opportunity to share how international education has long contributed to the region, leveraging the perspective of Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst to encourage local residents to extend a warm Bay welcome to them.

Learning Hawke’s Bay developed an opinion piece, also known as an “oped”, authored by Mayor Hazlehurst to share why she is excited to welcome students back to the region. Hawkes Bay Today was identified as an exclusive media target, who quickly published the piece in print and syndicated it online via the NZ Herald website.


Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst is welcoming the return of international students

Highlighting the social and cultural benefits for New Zealanders

New Zealanders have long benefited from having international students in their classrooms, workplaces and regions.

The stories that demonstrate the wide ranging social and cultural benefits of international students link well with our “Sparking a wide range of wonderful relationships” and “Delivering essential cross-cultural skills for a more connected world” . This provides an opportunity to showcase the heart-warming, cross-cultural relationships that international students develop with Kiwis across the country.

Our closed borders have also meant that many international students have been challenged with difficult decision making as a result of unexpected travel limitations. This was the case for 17-year-old international student Juan Jose, who made the difficult decision to stay in New Zealand and a long way from his family in Argentina.

Juan isn’t alone and there are many stories of young students across the country who have been in similar situations. Despite the personal challenges he faced, there was a positive side of the story to tell, by focusing on the reciprocal benefits Juan and the Queenstown community gained from him choosing to stay for his offshore studies.

Juan explained how his experience gave him a hands-on, intimate learning style that helped his academic studies thrive and discover a passion for artistic subjects. Juan’s homestay family also benefitted from hosting Juan where they learnt about Argentinian culture, enjoyed traditional meals and developed a strong friendship.

A local Queenstown journalist was offered an exclusive story about Juan’s experience, with the opportunity to interview Juan and his homestay family about how he has embraced creative education in Queenstown after one and a half years away from his family. This resulted in a print and digital article in Mountain Scene.

Good fit: Juan Jose, left, with his homestay dad Bert Haine 

Spotlight the innovative ways organisations are helping the sector recover

Technology and innovation has enabled New Zealand’s international education experience to continue “happening in surprising places and ways.” This pillar of our new narrative focuses on sharing how educational institutes and organisations are overcoming barriers of distance, language and cultural differences to continue these cross-cultural experiences.

For example, a group of gifted high school students in Thailand were given a taste of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) expertise at the University of Otago as part of a recent webinar series to promote New Zealand’s education offering.

The objective was to interest New Zealand journalists in this virtual cross-border initiative by through the newsworthy aspect that connects with New Zealanders.

The compelling aspect was that New Zealand universities were finding innovative ways to overcome our closed borders and engage with international students to show the opportunities New Zealand can offer in a virtual sense – through a taste of our tertiary education specifically for a pool of talented young students.

We developed a media release explaining how the webinar is an innovative way to deliver high-value, international education remotely. The release was distributed to a short list of journalists covering news in Dunedin as well as publications covering diversity and international events. As a result of distributing the media release to select targets, we secured coverage in the Otago Daily Times and ‘gateway to New Zealand’ news site, which ran the media release with key messaging and screenshots of the webinar.

Thailand’s deputy Minister of Education, Dr Kalaya Sophonpanich, and pupils from the Princess Chulabhorn Science High School (PCSCS) network watch a webinar on sport and exercise science by the University of Otago’s Prof Jim Cotter.




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