Future learners

In response to the rapidly changing landscape of International Education, Education New Zealand are investigating adaptive processes to reimagine our offering to the world.

The International Education Strategy 2018-2030 sets out to achieve sustainable growth for New Zealand. Some key goals for the strategy are to enhance the distinctive New Zealand proposition and to diversify markets, people flows and encourage innovative products and services. The strategy also has a goal to provide opportunities for all students to develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities needed to be global citizens. Underpinning this strategy is ensuring that all students connected to New Zealand have an excellent student experience.

This research project works within the goals of the International Education Strategy 2018-2030 and is a continuation of previous work completed to discover how New Zealand could embark on the development of world leading an innovative ways to connect to the world through innovative programming.

Following on from insights derived from a two day innovation workshop involving 20 tertiary academics from NZ and a series of focus groups conducted early 2018, this adaptive research project was developed to prototype and further test some product innovation concepts designed to enhance the student experience and the skills and capabilities future learners will need to truly be global citizens.



Setting a New Challenge for International Student Engagement.

Previous innovation workshops ideated six new concepts for future focussed tertiary products. These concepts were tested with focus groups of International Students at Masters level and also at High School. The Masters group highlighted and voted unanimously for the Global Challenge concept as they were motivated to develop skills and experiences to help them give back to their local community. Effectively, becoming global citizens by exercising their knowledge to solve local problems in a global context and with it, a desire to work trans-disciplinary and across cultures. Therefore it follows that a challenge based framework, where students can ‘reframe’ problems based on their own local needs, had the strongest appeal.

The core motivation for the younger group was flexibility. Students were attracted to this programme by the notion that they could study while experiencing other things or working. The main attraction of this concept is not the fact it’s online, but rather that the papers are short, which allows them to adapt and change the volume of their learning to suit their changing needs or circumstances.

Both groups ranked the National Excellence concept as their second choice, highlighting to us, that studying under an elite group of academics and innovative leaders in certain industries was more desirable than a University brand on its own.

For further details, refer to reports: Set Course and Student Focus Groups


Global Challenge

Themed Bachelor or Masters focused on solving a global challenge within trans-disciplinary teams.

Online, Anytime

Students can select any unit, from any NZ University on the carousel to make up their programmes as per their own interests.

National Excellence

A programme curated and delivered by lead academics from various universities under a certain discipline or theme.


THe opportunity

To test the latent potential of the Study In New Zealand Database

Through the SINZ database, Education NZ currently has connected with over 1,200,000 students this year who have expressed interest in an international education experience. These represented the future learners we were interested in learning more from. We set about to further test the concepts of embedding global citizenship and flexibility into programmes whilst highlighting the distinctive strengths of New Zealand’s value proposition.

A further objective of the Emerging Futures project was to investigate and understand the needs, motivations and attraction factors of the Future Global Learner, especially those outside of our top 10 markets.


Table 1. Engagement Statistics

NB. Registration numbers exceeded expectations, therefore a secondary pre-qualifying email was sent to reduce numbers to our target of 350 participants.

ENZ Current top 10 markets vs Emerging Futures countries of origin


Map 1. This map outlines the current markets ENZ is actively engaging with compared to the markets the Emerging Futures Summit engaged with.


A student-centred learning experience

To understand the needs of learners and what intrinsically motivated them, we established a participatory learning platform designed to encourage conversation and knowledge exchange.

From the outset we knew such a platform needed to be attractive enough for uptake and one where future learners could engage with the natural strengths of the New Zealand brand.

We chose to communicate and observe rather than survey.

The offer to the learners was a Global Summit experience where they had the opportunity to hear directly from NZ innovators and academics about topics that interested them in the form of online panels.

In addition to this, participants could apply to join cross-cultural, trans-discipline working groups to live problem solve and ideate solutions to global challenges through a Human Centred design weekend.   



What learning experiences would they be attracted to?



What skills do the learners of the future need in order to innovate real solutions?



Are future learners motivated by Global Challenges and how they might contribute to solutions?


Our Role

What might be New Zealand’s authentic role?


The Process

Human Centred Design

The Summit was established as a global, online, human centred design workshop. It was developed as a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) using a range of off-the-shelf digital tools, including Google Hangouts Live Stream, Slack, Trello and Google Plus Communities.

Context for the Summit was co-created by the participants of the six expert panels, who further validated and reinforced the Global Challenges we set.

A strong Maori cultural influence emerged that was supported by a webinar dedicated to cultural diversity and the importance of team building through developing cultural safety and trust.

During ‘Find a Problem Through Empathy’ phase of the programme we gathered over 300 local insight statements from participants. These statements showed us that our local NZ problems are vastly different from those that future learners from around the world are facing. These trends are outlined in the Local Insights Map 2 below.


Table 2. Emerging Futures human centred design process process

We experimented with a paradigm shift
to differentiate and respond to learner needs.



Most programmes are designed based on domestic needs within a European cultural context.

Individual Institutions can differentiate themselves locally but this is more challenging globally.

Existing markets are sold to, rather than consulted with and designed for.


towards a circular globally adaptive model

A learning experience that leverages New Zealand’s
inherent natural strengths in relation to global needs.

continuous iteration

New learning experiences that match the needs of 21st Century learners will be required to be designed in more inclusive and iterative processes which have the flexibility to adapt to global human behavioural shifts and needs throughout their lifetime.

Course content, modes of delivery and the entire student experience will be constantly changing and evolving in the future. Nothing will remain static.

The circular model example is a continuous process of refinement and adaptation.

By aligning what the world needs (global challenges), with New Zealand’s needs and the modern learner’s needs, we can create learning experiences that develop the skills fit for market.


Global Challenges

Highlighting global challenges, and identifying where New Zealand displays strengths.

NZ Innovation

Identifying authentic proof points for NZ innovation within various sectors and disciplines. Who are our next global leaders?

learner needs

Understanding the needs of learners from around the world who are facing similar challenges and have a strong desire to make positive changes.


Developing the core problem solving, ideation and communication skills necessary to respond to these global challenges.


Creating connected and peer-to-peer learning experiences that enable global citizenship and work across disciplines.

Market fit

Ensuring our Global, Local and Learner needs are being met through an adaptive and responsive process.



Starting the engagement based on universal challenges

The Emerging Futures project prototype started simply from the insight that the context of solving ‘Global Challenges’ can embed a range of learning pathways and experiences that align to existing and emerging areas of NZ innovation. Also that solving ‘Global Challenges’ is the basis of Global Citizenship and New Zealand is in a unique position to enhance our value proposition and the student experience through this concept.

Participants had the opportunity to ‘reframe’ the challenge statement to better describe a local problem. This presents a range of new learner needs that NZ educators can respond to. Refer to Map 2.

This also represents a new paradigm approach that focuses on life in the 21st Century and common ‘problems to solve’ for humanity (Global Challenges) rather than ‘countries and students’. This shift has the potential to augment the NZ education experience, through showcasing our natural inherent strengths and by activating live project based scenarios for virtual work related learning.

Summary of challenge preferences


Chart 1. Summary of Challenge Preferences

LOcal insights from around the world


Map 2. Insight themes clustered by country.
Sourced from over 300 local insight statements from the workshop participants


NZ Innovation

Creating a bridge to NZ Innovation

Key people at the forefront of innovative action in New Zealand were engaged during the process to provide further context into how New Zealand contributes to solving global problems.

Each of the 13 panelists were engaged up to three times leading up to the final webinar sessions.

All are available to view below.

We use bacteria to act like a sponge and absorb the gold around them from electronic waste at the site of collection.
— Jason Herbert - Mint Innovation
The circular economy makes a whole new world of strange and exciting materials for products possible. This is a whole new lease of life on the design industry.
— Cris De Groot - Unitec
We need tech and biotech experts, engineers environmentalists and water resource managers to solve agri-food challenges because the entire system interacts and is complex and dynamic
— Toni Laming - Blinc Innovation
One of the biggest challenges today is that we don’t really know what is going to happen over the next 30 years.
— Peter Wren-Hilton - Agritech NZ
The most important thing is to not stay within our respective silos but to have the courage and imagination to link across our disciplines
— Zaheer Ali - Earth Space Technology


Global Challenge Summit
uncovering future learner needs

The needs of the future learner for the 21st Century need to be seen through the lens of the world we live in.

The world faces highly complex, uncertain and values based problems across social, economic, political, environmental, ethical and also technological arenas.

Future learners will require platforms which assist them to actively develop the capabilities they need to productively and positively engage in problem solving for the sustainable survival of humanity.



Chart 2. Participant motivations for attending the Summit



Global Citizenship

After the Summit participants were asked what they enjoyed most about the programme. 68% stated it was for the opportunity to work in cross-cultural teams. Exchanging ideas to problem solve some of the global issues we currently face, rated high during the application phase. The Emerging Futures Summit acted as a channel for active global citizens to collaborate within a culturally safe environment.

our role

New Zealand is an outward facing country, that embraces cultural diversity and has a historic reputation for having a strong stance on social and environmental causes. This positions New Zealand in a place of authenticity when it comes to leading Global Citizenship.


Establishing the conditions to practice 21st Century Skills

Employers around the world are stating that graduates are still unprepared for the working world and lack the transferable skills that future employers are seeking. According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 92% of employers thought critical thinking and problem solving as very useful to new hires. Only 20% stated that graduates were prepared with intercultural fluency.

The Summit learning platform was designed for participants to practice:

  • Collaboration to work together, especially cross-culturally and trans-disciplinary to achieve a common goal

  • Communication to best convey their ideas

  • Critical thinking for solving problems

  • Creativity to think outside the box

We also used digital platforms that mimic professional life rather than a Learning Management Platform,


Chart 3. Analysis of participant feedback resulted in an evenly weighted distribution of the four key transferable skills.



Practicing within real-world contexts

The Emerging Futures Summit offered no academic or technical skills. Nor did it promise an accredited qualification. Yet achieved high engagement through purely exercising transferable skills by working together on real issues that connected with the participants. Even though most cited timezone differences, learning new digital platforms and language as barriers, for most the opportunity to put their expertise into practice to problem solve by collaborating and communicating across globally diverse teams was highly fulfilling.

our role

Although transferable skills are universally recognised, there are very few platforms for future learners to develop them. As a context for learning, interdisciplinary Global Challenges present an opportunity for New Zealand to authentically claim some global kudos for training in transferrable skills in a unique and globally beneficial way.


Globally significant, locally relevant.

Using human centred design as scaffolding, the Emerging Futures experience was based on identifying local problems through global contexts relevant to NZ innovation. Much of the experience was about sharing local insight to a global audience.

Key to creating this experience was firstly to ensure participants knew what role they played and secondly, creating a safe environment to contribute perspectives.

Establishing a safe environment through the inclusion of the Mihi Whakatau, the Pepeha during the all-important welcoming and on boarding phase, was instrumental in establishing a culturally safe experience.

continuous learning

A desire to put their skills into practice

The Summit gave opportunity for participants to put their skills into practice. Continuous learning becomes a question of connecting with the types of people you want to help grow your passion. Global connection are still continuing within the Emerging Futures slack channel, with most the activity post-event being private messages between participants.


Chart 4. 64% of participants had a bachelors degree or higher. Half had a Post-graduate qualification.



Learning from each other

Platforms that mimic real world and real working scenarios to exercise transferable skills are in demand. These skills are based on peer-to-peer exchanges, just like in a working environment. In order to succeed a high-trust environment needs to be established based on strong inter-personal connections.

Teams were at their best and higher chance of completion when a solid rapport was fostered by their facilitators. Teams offered a more transactional and instructional approach did not self-organise or build the trust required to be creative or critical in their thinking and were less likely to complete the challenge.

our role

New Zealand, from a Kaupapa Maori perspective, offers a rich set of protocols when it comes to cultural engagement. Many of these principles are based on establishing deep connections built on trust. The integration of Maori practices creates a culturally safe foundation for participants to practice their transferable skills.

take aways

What we learned

Global Challenges connect us

Global Challenges can be used as a mechanism for NZ to connect to the rest of the world

The response to the Summit was much higher than we had anticipated and a secondary application process was implemented for places to be secured.

  • 40% of applications for the workshops stated they were attracted to working on Global Challenges to change the world for the better

  • 68% of respondents post event stated that work across cultures to solve problems was the most rewarding part of the experience

“ The world is not one person, in our country we say “one pillar can’t make a house.” and that is why consideration of every one’s presence and ideas is so paramount. I am interested in “Emerging Futures Summit” because I want to at least add a brick to rebuild our destroyed world, and I am sure, from it, I will gain skills and experience that will help me to make a contribution in making our world good”


Global Citizens are proactive

Solving global challenges requires active Global Citizens who have developed the skills necessary to work together across disciplines and cultures

The Summit offered no qualifications or traditional learning experiences, yet it achieved high engagement through the opportunity to exercise transferable skills across cultures and disciplines to collaborate on solving real world issues. The Summit proved a strong desire across the world to collaborate and contribute.

“Emerging Future Summit presents extremely relevant challenges to the world of sustainability which I have great interest to participate and make a contribution. Moreover the usage of Design Thinking to build up an idea and create innovated solution is very productive with outstanding gains. I'm absolutely enthusiastic about this initiative to bring up people from around the world to think out of the box and collaborate with ideas to solve real issues.”


These great challenges lead to people being more global citizens, with a more capable mentality and disposition in according to these global changes. I would like to connect and learn how to solve this problems, collaborate to find the solutions to have an energy system with enough capacity to tolerate disturbances. Will help me develop and thus be a useful citizen in the face of these bigs problems”

Dominican Republic

opportunities to augment

New Zealand Innovation is world-leading in some key areas and can add value to our proposition by leading the stories that connect us.

NZ has a strong brand position for innovation and although our challenges are different to the rest of the worlds, as seen in CHART XX, it is our approach to problem solving that can connect us with the world. This new approach focussing on life in the 21st Century via problems to solve rather than ‘countries and students’ has the potential to augment the NZ education experience.

“In Yemen kids cannot go to school because of the war. Teachers haven't been paid for 2 years. The collapse of the system was the result of the chaos.”



Participatory Platforms

Digital Engagement opens up avenues to augment our current education offering and grow scale across the world through alternative learning experiences

The Emerging Futures Summit acted as a channel for active global citizens to collaborate within a culturally safe environment. Digital engagement on this level unfolds a new approach to telling the NZ story in education at the same time as offering new alternative learning experiences. Platforms that mimic real world and real working scenarios to exercise transferable skills are in demand yet can be often hard to scale. Peer-to-peer exchanges, just like in a working environment, require a high-trust environment to establish strong inter-personal connections and the NZ brand values of peace, respect, social responsibility and openness can be utilised to establish this trust.

“I would like to enhance the skill of "Collaborating with a team". This is because for solving the global challenge, we need to get together as a team and the team members are from different places and different time zones. All have their own perspective. So, to know the point of view of all and getting to one conclusion, is difficult.”

in summary

What does this all mean for New Zealand?

An earlier piece of work conducted internally for Education New Zealand posed the question “How might ENZ lead international education during a time of plenty while ensuring that the industry thrives in the long term?” The exploration of student centric delivery models was identified as an area for ENZ to lead in its thinking for the international education industry.

The Emerging Futures Proof of Concept acted as a platform to further understand learner needs and dynamics, and to identify the value exchange between international learners and New Zealand’s position in the market.

Our Role


New Zealand is an outward facing country, that embraces cultural diversity and has a historic reputation for having a strong stance on social and environmental causes. This positions New Zealand in a place of authenticity when it comes to leading Global Citizenship


Although transferable skills are universally recognised, there are very few platforms for future learners to develop them. As a context for learning, interdisciplinary Global Challenges present an opportunity for New Zealand to authentically claim some global kudos for training in transferrable skills in a unique and globally beneficial way


New Zealand, from a Kaupapa Maori perspective, offers a rich set of protocols when it comes to cultural engagement. Many of these principles are based on establishing deep connections built on trust. The integration of Maori practices creates a culturally safe foundation for participants to practice their transferable skills

Further exploration into developing innovative products & services that position New Zealand for its distinctive high-value and high-quality proposition are needed.