While New Zealand is renowned as a viable and quality destination for international students, unhealthy market practices have begun to desecrate that status, a prominent education provider has said.
He said the nature of the business entails quality teaching and learning, appropriate infrastructure and market-driven programmes and courses, none of which can be compromised merely to add student numbers.
New Zealand Career College Chief Executive Feroz Ali said private tertiary education providers had to balance costs and revenues against overheads and that ‘under-cutting’ was eventually detrimental to the student population.
“As per global practices, international students pay a premium to study in New Zealand, in order that domestic students not disadvantaged. However, some institutions charge annual fees as $6500, which is not viable,” he said.
Such low fees inevitably attract overseas students who obtain a Student Visa valid for a year or so, after which they would get a ‘Job Search Visa’ and Work Permit. Such student never intended to study in New Zealand.
“Securing a job and not pursuing higher studies is their goal,” Mr Ali said.
According to him, all Private Training Establishments (PTEs) that receive Government funding must justify the value of the programmes and courses offered and demonstrate how these enhance the goals of the Tertiary Education Strategy.
“Many PTEs that are not funded do not help to promote the Strategy but somehow align themselves to the Long Term Skills Shortage List,” he said.
Mr Ali voiced the views of many others in the education sector who say that often international students opt for short-term courses such as Horticulture and Cookery because they are a convenient stepping stone to gaining Permanent Residence and settlement. There has never been a satisfactory answer to the question, “Is this what New Zealand needs?”
Some education providers say that New Zealand has learnt little from the experience in Australia, where over-delivery of professional and vocational qualifications for international students led to a glut in the market, affecting all genuine and serious tertiary education providers.
“Since the problem began, a number of institutions have closed down across the Tasman, only to be established in New Zealand. There is an immediate and pronounced need to protect our Export Education Sector,” he said.
Mr Ali said New Zealand has had its share of failure of educational institutions in recent years. Citing the examples of Modern English School, Carich Training Centre, New Zealand College, API Institute and Kingsland Institute of New Zealand, he said the problems they suffered before collapse must be carefully examined in order to avoid the repetition of these mistakes.
He said while international students are high yield customers, the associated costs are also high. These include fees paid to education or immigration advisor whose commission may range from 15% to 50%, marketing and other recruitment costs.
According to another education provider, some PTEs adopted cunning methods to circumvent the system.
“But ultimately it is the students and their families who mortgage their properties and sell their assets that suffer,” he said.
Mr Ali said blatant misuse of the restricted working hours is another major problem.
“International students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week but must complete the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) approved course in which they are enrolled. But it is not uncommon for some PTEs to fall short on their delivery of course, reduce the class hours and allow the students to work. This is wrong and against the rules in force,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Mr Feroz Ali has an inside ring view of many other irregularities that confront the Tertiary Education Sector, when published would cause a stir. These will appear in our ensuing editions.
Photo : Feroz Ali