20 Mar 2015

Rise in number of Indian students 'too fast'

8:11 am on 20 March 2015

A surge in the number of Indian students studying in New Zealand has been accompanied by thousands of false applications and problems with English language screening.

In the first eight months of last year, Indian enrolments rose 60 percent to about 16,000 students, and there are early indications that growth is accelerating further with new student arrivals in January 65 percent higher than in January last year.

Chairperson of the language school association English New Zealand Darren Conway said the growth was too fast.

"I think we took the brakes off too quickly," he said.

"It leaves us too vulnerable to that market overall. It also suggests that there may not be as much quality control over applicants going on as there could be. English language requirements were loosened too much for India."

The Qualifications Authority said there have been problems with language testing by institutions that are trusted to do their own assessments of potential students' English.

The authority's deputy chief executive Jane von Dadelszen said it was investigating concerns that students from India were enrolling in programmes even though their English was not good enough.

"In conjunction with Immigration New Zealand and Education New Zealand, we are examining how providers who are enrolling students from India are applying the English language proficiency testing criteria, and that standards and practices continue to meet NZQA's requirements and are authentic and reliable."

Immigration New Zealand was dealing with a spike in the number of fraudulent applications from potential students from India.

It said the number of student visa applications from India almost tripled last year to about 20,000 but 38 percent were refused, compared with just four percent for the other main market, China.

Assistant general manager for visa services at Immigration New Zealand Peter Elms said most of those turned down had poor English and were not really coming here to study.

"The people who don't make the policy grade, if you like, are those people who are coming to study in New Zealand for the lower level courses, and generally speaking they are declined because we doubt they're bona fides... We doubt that their true reason for coming to New Zealand is to study at the level they say they intend to study at."

Education New Zealand is the Government body charged with promoting New Zealand as an education destination and increasing the the sector's value from $2.8 billion a year to $5 billion.

Chief executive Grant McPherson said New Zealand was not being targeted because it was regarded as a soft touch.

"If you look around the world, we're not the only ones that have had such a massive increase in the number of Indian students that are coming through."

"We're pretty optimistic at the quality of the students and, to your question, where there's a higher number of declines - I think that's showing that the system is working."

Radio New Zealand National will have more on this issue in the Insight programme on Sunday 22 March, just after the 8 o'clock news on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman.