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NZ: Fair agent dealings part of care code revamp

New Zealand has released an updated version of its pastoral care code of practice for international educators that promotes fair agent dealings and student support services. Alongside the revamped code, the government has released a contract disputes resolution scheme that it says will strengthen the care of international students in the country.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce. Photo: Flickr/Ignite New Zealand.

"To sustain growth, we must ensure that our international students have a positive, well-supported experience while they are in our country"

The new code of practice, which will come into effect in July, requires education providers to achieve 10 outcomes related to issues such as marketing and promotion, managing agents and student services.

“This new code will ensure we remain a world leader in the pastoral care of international students”

For example, the ‘student support, advice, and services’ outcome sets out that: “Signatories must ensure that international students are fully informed about relevant advice and services to support their educational outcomes.”

It builds on the existing code, published in 2002, and is presented as a more student-focused approach, with more proactive, student-oriented language.

On the issue of contracts, it adds to the 2002 document that states contractual dealings between schools or agents and students must be conducted in a “fair and reasonable manner” by stipulating that they must “support international students… to make well-informed enrolment decisions that are appropriate to the educational outcomes sought”.

And, as well as ensuring that education agents do not give misleading information to students, it adds that schools must ensure agents “provide international students with reliable information and advice about studying, working, and living in New Zealand” and “act with integrity and professionalism”.

The code will be overseen by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said will be given power to impose sanctions on education institutions that do not adhere to it.

In addition, the new dispute resolution scheme is intended to create a more effective process for students to resolve contractual and financial disputes with education providers.

“New Zealand was one of the first countries to adopt a code of practice in 2002,” commented Joyce. “This new code will ensure we remain a world leader in the pastoral care of international students.”

“The international education sector has been growing strongly and is now our fifth-largest export sector,” he added. “To sustain that growth, we must ensure that our international students receive a high quality education and have a positive, well-supported experience while they are in our country.”

NZQA has opened up a period of consultation, during which industry can contribute to the development of guidelines to help providers understand the code and share best practice in pastoral care of international students.

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