8 Aug 2018

Students ‘totally broken’ after NZQA withholds results

From Checkpoint, 5:11 pm on 8 August 2018

A group of international students say they may hunger strike unless their academic results are released by the Qualifications Authority.

The day before they were due to finish a diploma in business last month, 20 students attending Tasman International Academies on Auckland's Queen Street were told their results were being withheld by NZQA, pending an investigation due to "serious concerns about Tasman's assessment and moderation of student work".

That's despite some of the students being told, when they checked with NZQA before enrolling with Tasman, that the tertiary provider was accredited and suitable.

"This is not [our] fault," said Taniya Ahuja, 21, fighting back tears.

"We came here for a better future. We couldn't see a future in India, that's why we came here - better education - but now, this result, we can't even think about our future now," she said.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has asked for advice on what options are available to help the students.

"I really feel for these students," he said, "This is exactly the kind of thing our government is trying to eliminate - these low quality providers springing up and giving people like these students the runaround."

"It's a blight on New Zealand's reputation as a provider of international education," he said.

The group will protest outside the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's office on Queen Street tomorrow - just 50m down the road from Tasman.

"And if we won't get a positive outcome, then we might go for a hunger strike as well," Ms Ahuja said.

"We are ready for that. We don't have any other options. We are ready to fight."

For some of the 20, it's the second time they have been in this situation - Lakwhinder Singh was caught up in the demise of NZ National College in Auckland last year, which was forced to close over ongoing quality issues.

Mr Singh was forced to transfer to another school and restart his diploma - he chose Tasman - and will now lose up to $15,000 if he is forced to start again.

"We will go to a hunger strike, and we will fight to our death," Mr Singh said, "Because this is our life, our future."

Many of the students' visas expire on 21 August. They are able to apply for a temporary visa, at a cost of $250, which will enable them to work 20 hours per week while NZQA investigates Tasman.

NZQA declined to be interviewed but said in a statement: "We have been working alongside Tasman to come to a solution that allows the students to complete their qualifications without transfer to another provider, we have done this to minimise the impact on students.

"Students are receiving further information today about meeting with Tasman later this week, this meeting will outline their next steps.

"We are unable to comment further on the detail of this matter as we currently work to ensure the interests of students at Tasman are protected while the quality concerns identified are addressed by the education provider."