2 Sep 2016

Fears of Indian student backlash

5:54 pm on 2 September 2016

High-profile problems for Indian students could damage New Zealand's multi-billion dollar foreign student industry, universities say.

Students at desks

A file photo of students at Newton College of Business and Technology, which was one of the first private providers to target the Indian market for international students. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is re-testing 380 mostly Indian students because it doesn't trust the standards they got from their Auckland tertiary institution, IANZ (International Academy of New Zealand).

And this weekend there is a rally in Auckland in support of 150 Indian students who say they are facing deportation because their agents faked financial information in their study visa applications.

The problems follow an explosion in enrolments by Indian students in the past two years, which has been dogged by allegations of fraud and exploitation.

Late last year government agencies were forced to change visa rules after they discovered English-language requirements were being exploited, and this year Immigration New Zealand has been cracking down on the use of fake financial information in study visa applications.

The director of the New Zealand India Research Institute at Victoria University, Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, said he was not at all surprised by the latest problems.

"We have been anticipating this kind of situation for at least the last two or three years," he said.

Dr Bandyopadhyay said the current cases were likely to hurt New Zealand's reputation in India if Indian news media reported them.

"It will have a serious impact on New Zealand's reputation in the Indian education market," he said.

"When you have a bad apple, it does not remain confined to that particular institution and it will start affecting other institutions as well."

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said the current situation was concerning.

He said the general reputation of New Zealand's education system was important for institutions trying to attract foreign students because most were too small to rely solely on their individual reputation.

"Anything which basically undermines that, either through students that are failing because they can't afford to be here or because they're getting qualifications that aren't worth the paper they're printed on, that's just bad for New Zealand."

A former international student now trying to set up an association to represent Indian students, Harshmeen Kaur, said there were many more problems facing students in New Zealand.

"There are heaps and heaps of problems but there are no solutions so far," she said.

The chairperson of Auckland's Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust, Jeet Suchdev, said he was often contacted by Indian students who were finding life in New Zealand very difficult.

Mr Suchdev said the institutions and education agents who brought the students to New Zealand needed to provide more support.

"The agents in India give them very rosy pictures and tell them that when you land there you'll have no problem, you just go and enrol and after getting a diploma and all that you'll be getting a job, but that is not a true picture because here students are struggling."

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