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QTI defends high quality international education against political attacks

5 June 2017

Quality Tertiary Institutions (Nga Wananga Kounga), a key private tertiary education sector peak body, is going into bat for high quality international education in the face of growing attacks from politicians and unions.

Foreign students studying in New Zealand have been targeted in a series of recent comments from Labour leader Andrew Little, NZ First leader Winston Peters and the Tertiary Education Union (TEU). QTI believes those criticisms miss the mark by massively underestimating the benefits of international education to the country and to the individual students. They also risk tarnishing our educational reputation overseas, and damaging our near $5 billion international education industry, including the 33,000 jobs that it creates.

QTI Co-Chair Kerry Priestley (International Travel College) said “international students are being caught up in a wider political debate about restricting immigration. This will undoubtedly be a major theme of the election later this year. New Zealand First has long campaigned on dramatically reducing immigration (including international student numbers) and Labour is now calling for a reduction of 30,000 immigrants a year (down from 50,000 previously). The package would dramatically change student visa conditions, particularly for lower level qualifications.”

“Mr Little may say his policy is only targeting low-quality courses but it is much broader than that. If enacted, it will have a chilling effect on the industry, deny worthy students the chance to study here, and lead to the closure of a number of courses and even institutions around the country, particularly in Auckland. QTI believes that Government agencies such as NZQA and Immigration NZ have sufficient powers to deal with low-quality providers already. We support them in their enforcement actions across all sectors of tertiary education,” Mr Priestley said.

QTI Co-Chair Wendy Pyne (Bethlehem Tertiary Institute) described the recent comments as “direct attacks on the private tertiary sector when issues, while thankfully very rare, occur in all parts of the industry. Mr Little stated that ‘immigration policy shouldn’t be designed to sustain a bunch of private training businesses.’ We would agree with that sentiment - but it is not the reality of the situation. Private providers are being singled out but it is worth noting that over half of all international students attend public institutions. The TEU has noted the impact that the Labour policy would have on polytechs with high numbers of international students. However, we do not agree with their solution which is to push high-quality private providers out of the market simply because of their ownership status. The TEU also continue to incorrectly assert that the entire private sector is ‘for profit’ when this is not the case. QTI members alone include charities, not-for-profits, community trusts and not-for-loss providers.”

“A recurring theme is that international education is a ‘back door to immigration’ or even a ‘rort’. This argument ignores the inconvenient truth that 4 out of 5 international students do not receive a further visa. They go home. Those graduates that stay do not generally immediately buy million dollar properties or drive a fleet of cars on congested motorways. They are not responsible for housing prices or traffic woes. Launching his policy, Mr Little noted ‘a third of international students studying at private training establishments say they plan to work or seek residency here after study.’ That is probably true but it does not mean they got work or residency. The statistics indicate that many did not. It would be interesting to find out how many university and polytech international students said exactly the same thing” noted Mrs Pyne.

Mrs Pyne and Mr Priestley affirmed the long-standing QTI position of opposing poor quality education at any level and wherever it occurs. “We believe the Government has enough power to address low-quality education, gaming the system, rorts, exploitation and fraud at a provider level. There is no need and no benefit in attacking legitimate students who want to study here, and the minority who want the chance to work here and maybe live here at some point,” they said.


Media Contacts:         Wendy Pyne 07 562 2901 – Kerry Priestley 027 277 0540

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