The New Zealand Qualifications Authority closed the doors on Christchurch’s Retail Business and Management College as a result of the provider’s poor educational performance and non-compliance with NZQA rules, affecting 31 international students.
“NZQA will be ensuring students are supported at this time and provided with options to continue their studies,” said NZQA deputy chief executive quality assurance, Grant Klinkum.
“Our focus is working to transfer these students to alternative high-quality tertiary education organisations who will provide a full package of learning and support.”
Significantly, however, the deregistration marks the fourth closure of a PTE that enrols international students in 2017, while a fifth, domestic-only provider also closed earlier this year.
While closures are up from a relatively quiet 2016 – several providers were put under review but not closed, and one provider under investigation was liquidated and later bought by EDENZ Colleges – Klinkum told The PIE News it was not cause for concern.
“This represents less than 1% of the entire sector we quality assure, which comprises over 500 providers,” he said.
“On the one side is increasing competition to attract international students and on the other hand is stricter regulation to control immigration”
“The vast majority of NZQA-accredited education providers are high quality providers who support NZQA’s role of quality assurance,” he said, adding the authority regularly reviewed its quality assurance requirements and rules to address emerging risks.
According to Rahul Choudaha, executive vice president at online platform StudyPortals, the increase is likely due to more stringent guidelines around quality assurance, rather than an increase in the number of unscrupulous providers.
“On the one side is increasing competition to attract international students and on the other hand is stricter regulation to control immigration. Depending on the timing and context, one side may win over the other,” he said.
“Currently, institutions which have compromised quality to bring students onshore to New Zealand are yielding to the regulatory and competitive pressures.”
Klinkum added additional measures to ensure high quality education and ongoing monitoring had also resulted in the approval of only 15 out of the 37 applications for PTE registration in the past year.
While the sector has made it clear the closures are not part of an ongoing trend, quality assurance within education propelled onto the national stage, with the incumbent tertiary education, skills and employment minister Paul Goldsmith using it as a platform in the lead up to last month’s election.
In an address to delegates at NZIEC, Goldsmith repeatedly prioritised the need for rigid quality assurance and commended NZQA for the work it had already undertaken.
Still, the measures implemented by NZQA have not prevented some unscrupulous providers bypassing the rules, and the regulator announced in August that legal proceedings against a sixth, unregistered provider for breaches to the Education Act had begun.
Breaches included the unapproved enrolment of international students, making false claims that their courses were approved by the regulatory body, and the unauthorised use of protected terms, such as “New Zealand” when describing its courses, according to NZQA.
A representative from ITENZ, the body representing PTEs in New Zealand, said while concerning, students’ best interests should be at the centre of international education.
“We welcome such action by NZQA as registered PTEs have to go through a rigorous process to be registered and accredited by NZQA and therefore any organisation failing to register or meet the Quality Assurance Standards is of concern,” said the representative.
New Zealand’s international education industry has experienced ongoing growth recently, reaching a record $4.28bn last financial year, primarily driven by the PTE and schools sectors