For years we basked in the international praise of our post-Global Financial Crisis “Rock star Economy”. And rightly so, smart investment by our government and the development of critical export industries allowed us to get out the other end without too much drama. However, one of these industries the government encouraged to grow was the education export sector. And while figures show there are over 130,000 international students in New Zealand, the government has been very reluctant to regulate this sector to ensure quality and integrity.

The Chief Executive of Education New Zealand (ENZ), brags about the growth of the sector and the positive impact it is having on New Zealand. However, the results are anything but. There is no certification of the overseas or New Zealand based “Education Consultants” who recruit these students and sell New Zealand dream to them. There is no real minimum standard or certification of courses offered by New Zealand education providers. And the government body responsible for overseeing this industry is more concerned with getting as many people to study here as possible but with little regard for the products it is selling. 

Of course, the big secret of the education export sector is that New Zealand isn’t generally first choice destination of study most students. The UK, USA, Australia, Europe are all above us on the preferred place to study. However, through carefully crafted and purposely misleading sales tactics that allude to studying in New Zealand as a pathway to permanent residence, New Zealand is able to recruit a lot of students.

It is the firm belief of the New Zealand People’s Party that while the New Zealand Government isn’t directly involved in the choice of institution or course a student chooses to attend, the government sets the policy and regulations, which govern the industry and as such the buck should stop with them. When “Education Consultants” and others deliberately commit fraud, the Government should do everything it can to hold those involved to account and fix the gaps in the system that allowed it to happen. The students, however, shouldn’t be punished for the crimes of others and industry flaws. 

It is a policy of the New Zealand People’s Party to stand by every international student currently in the county and honour the commitments we made to them, whether we intended to make them or not. We will give every student the chance to change to a course or program, be it an apprenticeship, diploma or degree, which will benefit them and New Zealand.

If they need visa extensions to finish these courses then we will make that happen. 

We can then firm up the regulation of the industry, the quality of the courses and programs being offered to ensure future students will come here with a clear understanding of what they are getting and where it could lead them. As part of this New Zealand People’s Party will remove “Education Consultants” from the industry and instead require students and education providers to use Licensed Immigration Advisors. Families put themselves into massive debt so their children can study in New Zealand, so let’s stop treating them like customers and start treating them like fellow humans. 

Ask any New Zealander and they would say we are a fair and honest country. And abroad too, New Zealander’s have a solid reputation for being honest and kind, albeit a little hard to understand. The other parties in this election seem to be in the camp of either tightening and shrinking the industry or allowing it to carry on growing but with little regard for integrity or quality.

We don’t see it as an either/or situation. New Zealand can quite easily have a world class, highly desirable education export industry that continues to grow and contribute to the country’s economic success.