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New Zealand govt to refund international students nearly $1 million in fees

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After their institution's closure in January, the students finally received a refund. Source: Shutterstock

A group of international students whose New Zealand institution Excellent Education closed in January have finally received a government-administered refund for their tuition costs.

The New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) closed the Auckland-based Excellent Education Academy after it failed to pass assessments related to the quality of its business diplomas.

Just six assessment samples were deemed to be adequate out of a total of 71 – and the institution was also found to be enrolling students who could not speak adequate English.

The department in charge of monitoring these things before they occur claimed it does not have the funding to be able to monitor much more than 25 percent of institutions.

Earlier this year, Newsroom reported Education Minister Chris Hipkins estimated the cost of refunding the business students’ fees to be around NZ$570,000 (US$411,162). However, a new report from Newsroom now states the Education Ministry predicts the cost will be NZ$828,000 (US$597,267) at the very least – with the likelihood of this number increasing further.

To date, Newsroom reports 176 students have applied for a refund.

In February, Newsroom reported numerous Chinese international students were stuck in Auckland after the college’s closure, unable to continue their studies nor recover their fees.

The students claimed they came to New Zealand because they trusted the government to check for misleading qualifications, “but after we passed the course and just before our graduation day NZQA have told us the qualification is worthless and the owner has stolen our fees by not paying them into the Public Trust,” one of the students on the business course told Newsroom.

“Before this shocking news, I told my parents I’m going to spend Chinese New Year with them and I’m going to be a very proud graduate, and they’re going to be very proud of me,” another student said.

“But now I’ve got nothing. I feel so humiliated. I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t want to disappoint them.”

Hipkins claimed the government harbours concerns over New Zealand’s reputation, assuring the public “we are working hard to address low-quality operators”.

“The sector grew too big, too fast under the previous National government, which took its eye off the ball and let the overall industry down,” he added.

“It is important to state, however, that the vast majority of operators do provide quality education.”

In February, Hipkins claimed the students had all received a full refund and been able to go to an alternative provider “subject to entry requirements, which includes English language proficiency”.

However, the students denied receiving refunds.

Excellent Education and a handful of other higher education providers in New Zealand are believed to have offered sub-standard qualifications in order to provide easy access to visas and entry into the country for foreigners.

Chair of Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand Craig Musson claimed these institutions were more focused on “getting people through with visas” than the quality of education provided.

While enforcement against these institutions is increasing – 25 have had action taken against them in the last year – there are concerns not enough is being done. The authority claimed it would likely need to quadruple the amount of monitoring it was currently doing – around 40 to 50 institutions at a time –  to be successful and the only way to increase this is to provide it with more funding.

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