17 August 2016 at 9:00 am

Getting ready to celebrate 25 years

Just one sleep to go! We’re busy beavering away getting ready for the start of the New Zealand International Education Conference in Auckland tomorrow.

2016 celebrates 25 years of New Zealand International Education conferences being held. During the conference, we’ll be celebrating some of the highlights of our industry’s journey.

If you’re joining us in Auckland, make sure you check out the history display in the exhibition hall. We traverse a handful of key highlights as the industry has developed and evolved over the past 25+ years.

If you’re not able to join us in Auckland, you can follow the conversation on Twitter at #nziec and on Weibo at #2016新西兰国际教育年会NZIEC#.


Here, Richard Smith, founding director of Auckland Institute of Studies (AIS), reflects on his time in the industry, outlining how AIS has evolved over the years.

Richard Smith

Blazing a trail over 25 years ago

Richard Smith talks about his experience in the international education industry.

“In the late 1980s, I was involved in business between New Zealand and China in both the public and private sectors, and regularly received enquiries about education in New Zealand.

So in 1990, my two business partners and I set up AIS. We were based in the Downtown Centre, Auckland, initially as an English language school, starting with a single class of international students. In our second year, we added business studies, then travel and tourism courses, and appointed marketing officers for Japan and China. AIS quickly grew to more than 200 students. 

AIS 1991 whole school cropped2

The entire roll of AIS could fit in one room back in 1991.

In the first five years, we worked seven days a week, putting in huge hours. I was on the business development and admin side, doing everything from paying staff, processing student applications, and signing up agent representatives.

In 1992, we brought in new business partners from Taiwan and Japan, and bought the old St Helens maternity hospital, set on 10 acres in Mount Albert. It had been empty for two years and was very rundown. Moving from the city to the suburbs was a good move as it allowed for expansion. Being in a residential area meant easy access to homestays for students. We also converted the old nursing home into student accommodation. In 1993, the doors of the new campus opened after a year of refurbishment. 


AIS was reborn at the old St Helen’s maternity hospital.

The following year we launched our first degree, the Bachelor of International Business, becoming the first private business school at degree level in New Zealand. In 1995, we started delivering an MBA programme. Then in 2002, we opened our second campus, the Asquith Campus, where we developed new degree programmes in tourism, hospitality and information technology.

Over the years, more than 20,000 students have studied at AIS. Today, we cater for around 1,500 students from all around the world.

Looking back, we were like trailblazers really, starting from scratch alongside other new organisations like New Zealand Qualifications Authority and New Zealand Education International Ltd, and putting in the hard yards. In 2015, we celebrated our 25th anniversary.”

AIS 1993 grads2

AIS students celebrate graduation, 1993.

What's in it for me?