iStudent Complaint Service – How it can help New Zealand sell education to International Students

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today’s article on Stuff about more International Students choosing to study in Wellington, highlights the opportunity that provision of education for International students provides for New Zealand. [1]

New Zealand’s capacity to attract and take care of International Students is enhanced by the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students Code of Practice (“the Code”) which came into force on the 1st of July 2016.

Educational Institutions (which are referred to in the Code as Providers) that wish to provide opportunities for International Students must ensure that they comply with the obligations under the Code which include being a signatory to that Code.

Section 12 of the Code provides that Providers must proactively understand the needs of International Students. They must provide information to the student about the educational instruction offered by the Provider, specify the potential learning outcomes ( including pathways for further study and employment); give details about estimated study and living costs and information about accommodation and transport options which will make the experience for the student as trouble-free as possible.

The Code also requires that the Providers offer a safe environment and support whilst students undertake their studies.

The Code is designed to give assurance to international students and their parents or guardians that the student will have a great opportunity and will be safe when they come to New Zealand for study. The positive onus on the Providers gives focus to the whole experience and makes it clear that responsibility goes well beyond the classroom.

It’s clear that there are benefits also for New Zealand students who have the opportunity to gain an international perspective whilst at the same time making friendships that will endure beyond the time that the student is studying.

An essential part of the Code is the establishment of a Dispute Resolution Service. This service is an independent dispute resolution service designed to provide a swift and effective process for resolution of any contractual or financial disputes between international students and Providers are swiftly and effectively resolved, preferably through voluntary settlements.

FairWay Resolution Limited is the Code administrator appointed by the Minister forTertiary Education, Skills and Employment under section 238J(4)(a) of the Education Amendment Act 2015.

iStudent Complaints was launched in July 2016 under the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme Rules 2016 and focusses on complaints of a Financial or Contractual nature .

The service has already assisted a number of students and Providers resolve disputes. In the first instance FairWay can assist International Students to clarify their grievance through discussion with a Resolution Co-ordinator. Students are able to provide information in their own language and can be referred to various support agencies if appropriate. Students and Providers are encouraged to work collaboratively to resolve the concern. If they are unable to do so, FairWay will appoint a mediator to assist the parties. FairWay can also appoint an adjudicator who can make a decision which is binding on the Provider.  The service provides a very friendly and flexible approach with students using media such as WeChat and Facebook to make contact.

Since 1 July 2016 FairWay has received excellent feedback from students who have sought assistance from the service. One student said “First of all, please allow me to express my deep appreciation for your concern and emails. This let me feel again about the honest and friendly from Kiwi and NZ.”  Whilst another said “u do a good job, help many students living here with less stress, many thanks”.

Protection of the brand is fundamental to growth of the business. The ability to have some oversight of the types of difficulties that students might face and an independent process for resolution is a vital part of the business development in this area.

For more information about the iStudent complaint resolution service please visit the website at http://www.istudent.org.nz/about-istudent-complaints 

[1] http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/89752366/international-students-choosing-to-study-in-wellington-over-other-parts-of-country

Denise Evans
Senior Dispute Resolution Practitioner at FairWay Resolution Limited