23 March 2023 at 10:30 am

Growing New Zealand’s education connections in the Middle East

The reopening of the New Zealand Embassy in Riyadh was an opportunity to underline education links between New Zealand and Saudi Arabia and lay the groundwork for a high-level education delegation visit later this year. 

ENZ and Waikato Uni reps with Saudi alumni
ENZ’s Senior Advisor for the Middle East, Bronwyn Shanks (second from left), and University of Waikato representatives, International Director Sharon Calvert (third from left) and Regional Manager Richard Witts (fifth from left), with Saudi alumni .

ENZ participated in the re-opening ceremony and stressed the importance of education connections between New Zealand and Saudi Arabia to a 300-strong audience.  

A rousing performance of ENZ’s waiata – Manapou ki te Ao – by Ngāti Koraha, a kapa haka group based in Dubai, supported the embassy’s re-opening ceremony. 

The event took place in the same week that University of Otago alumna, Rayyanah Barnawi, made the news as she is set to be Saudi Arabia’s first woman astronaut in space when she travels to the International Space Station later this year.  

The visit was a useful opportunity to engage on education with Saudi Arabian government officials and to discuss G2G opportunities with NZ Inc agencies in the wider Middle East region.  

ENZ’s Senior Advisor for the Middle East, Bronwyn Shanks, said the visit has been valuable in the way it has helped ENZ to lay the groundwork for an education delegation to the Middle East, including Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia in May.  

“We understand the significance of the Middle East region for our education sector, particularly Te Pūkenga, universities, English language schools and edtech companies.  

We’re building knowledge and connections on the ground that can help open doors for New Zealand education providers looking to grow their links in the region and look forward to supporting them with a high-level education delegation visit.” 


ENZ’s Bronwyn Shanks speaking at the New Zealand Embassy re-opening event, with Ngāti Koraha kapa haka group in support

Alongside the embassy’s re-opening event in Riyadh, ENZ and representatives from the University of Waikato and the University of Auckland met with Saudi government connections, including the National Institute for Educational Professional Development (NIEPD), Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), Ministry of Culture, and Ministry of Tourism.  

The discussions’ focus was on how New Zealand education providers could support Saudi Arabia’s efforts towards upskilling their young people under Vision 2030. 

“It was great to meet some of those young alumni hosted by the University of Waikato and hear about the positive impact their New Zealand education experience continues to have now they are back in Saudi Arabia,” Shanks said.   

ENZ and the University of Waikato also visited the University of Wollongong in Dubai, one of a network of study centres under university consortium NCUK, with which ENZ and all eight New Zealand universities have a partnership agreement to provide in-country foundation programmes. 

Education providers interested in knowing more about education engagement in the region can contact ENZ’s Senior Advisor for the Middle East, Bronwyn Shanks, on bronwyn.shanks@enz.govt.nz. 

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