A group of more than twenty international students studying hospitality courses in the Sylvia Park Campus of New Zealand Management Academies (NZMA) - an Auckland based educational institute - are going through extreme stress about an uncertain future, as their college fails to deliver results, even after six to nine months of completion of their coursework and repeated submissions of assignments.

Majority of these students who have come to New Zealand on a promise of better educational outcomes and a “world class student experience” had taken huge financial loans in their home country, mostly against the collaterals of family-homes, to aggravate their miseries.

Importantly, this is not a case of students having poor English language skills or having poor competency level. Rather it is a case where the college is continuously shifting the standards of what is required to successfully pass the course, often at whims and without any proper communication with the affected students.

The Indian Weekender spoke with at least five of these students on Monday, June 17, who told that their numbers were around twenty, however many of them were scared to come out in the open, for fear of retribution from either the college, or Immigration New Zealand – a debilitating fear shared by a majority of international students.

The students told the Indian Weekender that their plight had aggravated after college’s repeated changing of “goalposts” of what is required to pass the course, and get a pass certificate and coming back with pleas to change and resubmit their assignments.

“Some of us completed the course in September and December last year, but we were asked to resubmit assignments that we have done successfully.”

“However, neither we have received our results nor any satisfactory explanation to our questions,” Hatim Poonawala, one of the students said frustratingly.

College currently addressing NZQA raised quality concerns

The frustrated students who are living on month to month visa extensions told the Indian Weekender that they have been running from pillar to post ranging from college staff to the office of the Minister of Education for immediate help.

The students shared with the Indian Weekender one of their appeals to help to be reverted back by the office of the NZQA which acknowledged that the quality concern related to Diploma in Tourism and Hotel Management (Level 7) at NZMA.

“As you are aware NZMA is implementing an agreed remedial plan for you which include re-teaching of the Diploma content and reassessment of all Diploma components completed to date and includes appointing a moderation partner who will post-moderate marked learner work,” a letter from the office of Acting Chief Executive said.

Poorly administered process

Explaining their plight and poor communication from the college, students told the Indian Weekender that initially, they were appreciative of college’s compulsory remediation process as required by NZQA, as the college was both supportive and informative about the process and students realised that the process had good intentions at the heart.

 “All students were supported by the college to get our visa extensions, which was a maximum of two months.

 “Initially, in some of the cases, students were also supported with nominal financial support from the college to help us sail through the difficult phase of the extension of studies and staying on a student visa,” Mr Prasad said.

“However, soon proper communications and support dried out and were gradually replaced by almost non-committal, and mutually contradictory responses, from the college staff,” Mr Prasad said.

“Initially, we were told that we have to work with a new tutor and submit our assignments. And only if we pass, our assignments will be sent to the moderation partner, which was ARA Institute, Canterbury,” Mr Poonawala said.

“Many of us were told that they were passed by the internal marker and their assignments have been sent to ARA Institute,” Mr Poonawala said.

However, halfway through this process, students were told that the tutor/internal marker had left the college and the students will have to rewrite assignments with a new tutor, causing much anxiety and frustration among the students.

“In fact, we were also asked by the college staff to share our previously submitted assignments for reassessment, which raised much concern about their academic integrity,” Mr Poonawala said.

“Since then, nether we are getting neither satisfactory answers nor assurances of when we can expect our results.”

“This is a very frustrating situation as many of us have already lost potential full-time job opportunities, because of our precarious visa conditions.”

“Moreover, our biggest concern is that most of us have taken big financial loans on the collateral of our family homes for financing our one year study.”

“Since that one year period has already finished now we are required to start repayment of the loan.”

“However, unfortunately, we are still not in a position to work full-time and start taking responsibility of repaying our debts, which is causing grave concerns for our families back home,” Mr Poonawala said.

This experience of international students is entirely opposite to what was envisaged by Education Minister Chris Hipkins at the time of the official announcement of the new International Education Strategy last year in August.

Launching the strategy last year, Mr Hipkins had said, “The Strategy provides three goals for international education.

 “Goal one is to deliver excellent education and student experience by ensuring international students feel welcome and safe here and receive a high-quality education.

It seems that at least the above group of students is receiving education, whose quality is at best contestable, and experience, that is fast deteriorating to abysmal.

Education Minister’s office ask NZQA to follow-up with the college

On the Indian Weekender’s query with the office of the Education Minister about this not-so-positive experience of the international students in New Zealand, a spokesperson responded with an assurance, “The Government’s aim is to ensure students receive a high-quality education and a positive experience in New Zealand which will benefit them throughout their lives.”

“The Minister has asked NZQA to follow this up with NZMA directly, which it has done, raising the students’ concerns.”

Subsequently, late last night, Wednesday, June 19, the Indian Weekender was told that the NZQA has come back to the Minister’s office with an assurance that a clear road map was in place and students were duly informed - a fact also reiterated by Mark Worsop, Chief Executive Officer, NZMA.

“We have informed these students that the pending external moderation is due by Friday this week. This is due process, and the advice we have received [from the moderation partner] to date.  

“Providing students have completed all assessment work to required standards, and bearing in mind varying student performances, eligible students should graduate by 5 July.”

However, the students had confirmed to the Indian Weekender this morning that they have not officially heard from the college about this definitive plan – a fact that they would not much complain, provided they can expect a definite result by July 5.