What Can International Students Do If They Feel They Are Being Mistreated During Internships?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Recent media reports feature international students who report being exploited or treated like slaves during internships. International Students are not only most welcome in New Zealand, they are essential to our International Education export market. Whether studying in a classroom environment or gaining practical work experience as part of their course, international students can expect a safe and quality education.   

In the wider education context, internships provide students with the invaluable opportunity to obtain real work experience while they are still studying and the trend for many tertiary students, including our own New Zealand students, to travel overseas to do this is growing. Ensuring that these are of a high quality and meet the specified curriculum requirements is essential.

The Education (Pastoral Care of  International Students) Code of Practice 2016 Practice (as amended 2019) is designed to ensure that international students receive the highest level of care whilst they are studying in New Zealand. Their educational experience should expose the student to all things “New Zealand” which includes exposure to our bi-cultural heritage, our beaches, our mountains, our food and everything else which makes New Zealand a great place to be.  For many international students, internships with New Zealand businesses are an integral part of the course, often it is a capstone course. The internships are usually arranged by the institution where the student is studying and have a specific educational purpose. There are a number of risks for the Education Provider when arranging intern placements, including the reputation of the Education Provider and the business which must be considered before a placement is arranged. Education Providers are obliged to ensure that all internship programmes comply with all immigration and health and safety requirements. The student’s academic work should be under the supervision of their academic supervisor.

On the other side of the coin, businesses may need to have arrangements with students which limit the financial exposure of the business. In some instances, students may not be paid by the organisation, or paid only a minimum wage. It is a considerable investment for a business to take on an intern on a short-term basis. The intern may need additional support from other staff members to address language or other challenges which the student may face during any placement. In return, the business benefits from having that international student as part of their team. Many international students are highly qualified and bring with them experience and international knowledge which is of benefit to the business.   

Education Providers should be confident that placement of the students in an internship will not result in exploitation and will support the learning needs of the students.  This all comes down to having clear expectations and understandings for all parties involved in the internship placement.  By operating in good faith and ensuring that the expectations, rights and obligations of international students and Education Providers is clearly defined will assist in making this a positive experience for our international students, their providers and the wider business community.

What to do if you have a complaint?

iStudent Complaints can deal with complaints from international students relating to financial and contractual matters.  Arrangements for internships are contractual matters which iStudent Complaints has jurisdiction to review in so far as whether or not the Education Providers are doing enough to ensure that the students are treated properly during any intern experience.

If you would like to raise a complaint with iStudent Complaints, you can get in touch:

Online – https://www.istudent.org.nz/making-a-complaint/complaint-form

Phone –  0800 00 66 75

Email – complaints@istudent.org.nz.

Our service is free, and our friendly team will talk to you about your experiences and how iStudent Complaints can assist.

About the iStudent Complaints process

The first step in the iStudent Complaints process is to assist the international student and the Education Provider to resolve the issue between themselves. This would initially be through the Education Provider’s own internal complaint process and if this does not result in resolution, iStudent Complaints will assist the parties through mediation.

Should an Education Provider and student be unable to reach an agreement, then the matter will be referred to adjudication where a practitioner will review all information before making a decision. The International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme Rules 2016 state that an adjudicated decision must be made on the basis of fairness and reasonableness after taking into account all the circumstances. The student and the Education Provider would be able to make submissions for the adjudicator to consider and these could include the contractual terms of the internship concluded between the student and their New Zealand Education Provider and whether these have been met. iStudent Complaints would also be able to make a determination regarding the tuition fees paid by the student and any other financial claims which the student is seeking.