14 September 2016

Letter from the CE on India student market

In recent weeks, you will have seen media headlines about Indian students in New Zealand. Coverage has ranged from concerns about the quality of some education agents, the validity of some visa applications, and the capability of some providers to deliver the kinds of education outcomes New Zealand expects. These issues are being addressed by the New Zealand government.

India is and will continue to be a large part of the international education industry. The vast majority of Indian students who study in New Zealand make a very valuable contribution to our campuses, our workplaces and our society. Every day Indian students, alongside other international students, are helping New Zealand to build its research capability and global linkages, to fill skill shortages and to enrich New Zealand culture.

However, we do currently have a small number of students from India facing potential deportation because of issues with their visa, or with illegal behaviour while they have been in New Zealand. Separately, students affected by the recent sale of an Auckland private training provider are being supported to transfer to a new provider to continue and complete their studies.

There have also been disturbing stories about some cases of the exploitation of international students from employers and others.

New Zealand government agencies are working closely together on these issues, to ensure all students are treated fairly and are well cared for, and to protect New Zealand’s educational reputation. This joint-agency work on international student wellbeing has focused in recent months on Auckland where the majority of international students are located, and involved a range of community meetings and student focus groups to ensure student needs and concerns are being heard and addressed.

It is vital that New Zealand maintains high standards across the international education industry.

It is also important that these events do not tarnish the reputation of an entire community nor devalue the significant contribution that international students from India and elsewhere, and our education providers, make to New Zealand.

To all of us involved in international education, it is a timely reminder to honour our obligations and responsibilities to students. We all – providers, agents, employers, community and ethnic groups, government agencies  and other support services – have a role to play in a successful international student experience.

When I talk about shared responsibilities, I am talking about government agencies which set the regulatory frameworks (including setting rules around proof of financial means), and agencies like Education New Zealand which promote New Zealand’s education opportunity offshore. I am also talking about providers which offer students – domestic and international – a wide variety of education programmes. These programmes can act as a stepping stone to further study in New Zealand or overseas. They can also provide a pathway to residence if a student gains the skills that are in demand in New Zealand. At other times, they are very much about the overseas experience.

Education agents and students also have a responsibility for great student experiences. There has been a lot of communication about the obligation on New Zealand providers to manage their agent relationships. Information sharing on agent performance is a key part of Immigration New Zealand’s strategy to support providers’ decisions on the agents they work with. Providers can expect to see greater government engagement on this area of compliance with the new Code of Pastoral Care.

We also have a collective responsibility to share and promote the positive contribution that international education makes to our communities.

We believe that students too have an obligation to come here with genuine intent – that their primary purpose is to study and that they have the means to do so. Working in New Zealand while studying is a way to complement the classroom skills they learn and to really engage with everyday life. It is not intended as a lifeline to cover living costs which can expose vulnerable students to the risk of exploitation.

Of course, New Zealand employers are important contributors to the education experience as well. Everyone in New Zealand has the right to protection through minimum work rights, and we expect employers to uphold New Zealand employment law. We continue to encourage individuals to come forward if they have specific examples of workplace mistreatment. This is the only way we can address these issues.

We are also working alongside the New Zealand communities of international students because we see this as crucial to good outcomes. It helps to bridge the gap that may exist through the different cultural contexts which operate and where, for example, some international students aren’t aware of their rights and protections under New Zealand law.

Of the students and former students facing deportation, some are in New Zealand unlawfully, some have been found to have submitted fraudulent visa applications, and some have committed crimes here. It’s critical that only those who have the right to be in New Zealand remain. This helps to support a quality system for the majority of international students who have, and continue to come here with, genuine means and intent.

Lastly, we acknowledge the role of education providers in this process – we do not accept poor performance. For the hundreds delivering high-quality education programmes in New Zealand, the outcomes for international students are obvious. Education New Zealand has numerous student stories of success. For the small number of providers not performing, agencies are taking appropriate action, not all of which makes it into the public arena, and for good reason. But I can say that agencies are working together more closely than before, sharing information to support change where it’s needed and to continuously improve the New Zealand education experience.

International education is one of the most powerful ways to connect us across the world. Let’s all continue to take responsibility for our part in it.

Grant McPherson photo edit5

 

Grant McPherson 

Chief Executive, Education New Zealand

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