The Green Party has a proud record of standing up for the rights of international students and other migrants in New Zealand. One of my proudest moments as an MP was standing in solidarity with the Indian international students when they took sanctuary at Unity Church. We want international students to have a quality education, be well looked after and then have opportunities to contribute to New Zealand after they finish their course of study.
What we do have a problem with are education courses which are clearly fronts for what migrant unions call ‘Education Trafficking.’
This term includes education providers who abuse students by using them as indentured labour for horticulture with the education component only a thinly veiled attempt at masking the reality of exploitation. This includes some education advisors based in India who trick students by selling a false vision of New Zealand and do unethical, illegal things like making misleading or false statements in the application. And last, but not least - education providers who often don’t provide a quality education that they promise. These rogue providers sometimes just outright fabricate results to make themselves look good and when they inevitably get closed down it is the students who pay the price. Too many international students pay tens of thousands of dollars in student fees, travel expenses and living costs only to get a low-quality education.
We don’t have any issues with the so-called ‘low-level’ education courses if they provide value to the person getting them and if the courses are through reputable education providers. Hospitality, restaurant management and IT are vital to the future prosperity of New Zealand as a tourism destination and as part of embracing a tech-savvy future. But they need to be done with tertiary education providers who will deliver on the education that they’re promising.
The Green Party has engaged with international students and their advocates in the migrant union movement extensively on international student rights. We’ve worked with the Migrant Workers’ Alliance and the Union of Migrant Workers to develop solutions to address the problems international students face. One of the solutions is to require tertiary institutions to develop a code of practice for education advisors they employ - this will ensure that we can hold them accountable. Another is to require tertiary institutions to develop a ‘code of conduct’ for student welfare to ensure that international students are being well looked after. We also need to properly fund services that assist international students such as the Labour Inspectorate so they can be more proactive in investigating and shutting down exploitation.
Overall, the Green Party is proud to support international students. We want New Zealand to live up to our reputation of a fair-go and ensure that the experience is a win-win for both students and the country.