On 24 October NZQA introduced new rules for English language requirements for international students from certain countries, this is known as Rule 18.

Students applying for student visas from countries that have a student visa decline rate of more than 20% must now provide an external English language test result, such as IELTS, as evidence of their English language competency. New Zealand tertiary institutions can no longer rely upon their own internal English language assessment processes and can only issue an offer of place once a prospective student’s English language capability has been evidenced by an independently verifiable and credible external entity.

India is currently one of the main source countries of international students to New Zealand and falls firmly in to this category. According to INZ statistics, in the financial year 2014-2015 of 32,068 applications received from Indian students 11,207 or 35% were declined, and for the current financial year 2015-2016 the decline rate has increased to 52 % with 5,148 declined visas from 9,259 student visa applications.

Under the old policy the English requirements could be satisfied through the education institutes’ internal English language system or if the students have previously completed their primary or secondary studies in English. Though meeting English requirements has always been compulsory with guidelines in place, Private Training Establishments (PTEs) were heavily relying on their internal English assessment system, and New Zealand was incorrectly being promoted as ‘ NO IELTS required’ country in south Asian markets. This level of self-regulation within the private sector has been highlighted as a conflict of interest with major concerns that the guidelines have been too loosely applied or even overlooked, accordingly NZQA and INZ have decided to take appropriate action.

The regulations are in place to ensure that prospective students have a suitable level of English to comprehend their course work and be successful in their studies. Institutions rightly should have a duty of care before taking a student’s money to be confident that they will achieve the learning outcomes required. New Zealand has been at risk of being considered a “soft touch” for students to gain entry with agents selling dreams of studying to residence. The reality for many though is that they either struggle in their studies or only achieve lower level qualifications and have little chance of finding suitable skilled employment to facilitate and application for residence through the skilled migrant category. The exercise results in no more than a major cost to the family with little or nothing to show for it on top of shattered dreams.

Despite the high level of declined visas, India has emerged as a major source country for international students and is growing year on year. INZ Mumbai received record breaking number of student visa applications from this market in October unsurprisingly just before the new policy was going to be implemented. In our opinion this spike in numbers is no coincidence and clearly shows the extent of the problem and why these changes were so important.

Whilst export education is a vital source of revenue to the New Zealand economy it is also important that the quality standards are maintained and improved. International students are more than just a revenue stream, the right quality of students are also the building blocks to New Zealand’s future and fundamental to the economic growth of the country.

If you are considering studying in New Zealand please take the advice of a suitably qualified professional licensed immigration adviser.

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