What We Learned at the NZIEC 2019

Thursday, August 22, 2019

iStudent Complaints attended, presented and had a trade stand at the New Zealand International Education Conference (NZIEC) held at Sky City Convention Centre this year. Here is what we learned from the conference.

We are a free service for students
In the future we will make it clearer that we are a free service, as so many people we talked to at the event were surprised that we are free (for students) when they asked how much we cost. As a part of the independent organisation FairWay Resolution Limited, iStudent Complaints is a government-funded (Ministry of Education) service so we are in a position to help students and education providers without passing on a charge to them. FairWay administers iStudent Complaints to help resolve all issues fairly and independently.

We shared stories and gained insights
We let people know that a large percentage of enquiries raised with iStudent Complaints were resolved or closed directly between the provider and student after initial assistance from iStudent Complaints. The rest of the time, the complaints are either resolved collaboratively between the provider and student with help from iStudent Complaints facilitators and mediators or in a small number cases, we make a decision on the matter. It was reinforced to us at the NZIEC that sometimes students feel like they need an external party to go to before they feel that they can go to their provider. We serve the function of giving students (and providers) another option outside of their internal processes but sometimes cases can be sent back to the internal processes to be resolved.

We help organisations set-up correct processes
Ideally, we wouldn’t receive any complaints, but, as the conference reinforced, we know that complaints will happen between students and their providers. Using our complaint resolution experience we can also help you to set-up the correct processes, to better enable you to resolve complaints yourselves (under the Pastoral Code). We also can help change existing processes if they need a refresh, update or a reset. The NZIEC reinforced this notion that our resolution expertise can help strengthen and set-up processes/policies for organisations. A robust complaints process can make a big difference for education providers and students.

We resolve contractual and financial issues
The disputes we help resolve are contractual and financial complaints between a student and their provider. Examples of this include;

  • When a student’s visa runs out before they finish their course and they are sent home and ask for reimbursement for their non-attended lessons.
  • When a student possessions are withheld from them and they aren’t given them back despite them asking multiple times.
  • When a student leaves a programme before they have started it despite committing and paying a fee, then requesting it back.

Its important to note that we can’t help with every single type of complaint. All disputes to do with quality of teaching, facilities and other such complaints are taken through the NZQA system.

There are lots of passionate educators in NZ
Everyone we met at the event was very passionate about helping their students and making sure they were given a chance to experience New Zealand in a positive way. All the educators were interested in making the most of their time at the conference in order to network with as many people as they could. As well as gaining insight from the presenters, attendees networked with people that they thought could help them, their school or their education provider. It was great to see and recognise that we are all working towards the common goal of improving both our students and our countries reputation as a world-class educator.

The presentations were fantastic
From our very own Samantha de Coning’s presentation “If we can do it – so can you!”, to the stories from international students themselves, to the talks on sutainable growth, the presentations were informative and important. Presenters and attendees came from all across the country (and from overseas) to present and/or listen to someone whose ideas they wanted to hear. A big thanks to everyone that came up to our trade stand with feedback from Samantha’s presentation and also to all of the other presenters as well.

The food was well-received
The conference dinner and lunches were all delicious and well prepared. As all teachers/education providers know – good food is a key part of the education and learning experience. Food is a key component of education, providing focus and nourishment for the brain. Luckily, the event organisers provided us with some great savoury sustenance and delicious treats to keep us focused!

Culture is crucial
Japan was the country of honour at this years edition of the NZIEC but it was clear that all of the cultures represented at the event mattered. New Zealand is a country with a history of cultures sharing their traditions and knowledge with eachother. We are a country that welcomes others to embrace our culture while we simultaneously embrace all of the outside influences that students bring to us. Fiercely proud of our own country, we strive to educate our international students about our culture while also encouraging them to share their cultures with us.

We’ve still got a lot to learn!
A final thanks to Education NZ and Verve for putting this event on. It was a pleasure to attend and we hope we can return in some capacity next year. There are many more people to meet and stories to hear so that we may learn more about educators in this country, their students and their thoughts on us and the education sector as a whole.

Who are iStudent Complaints and what can we help you with?
iStudent Complaints is an independent dispute resolution scheme established by the New Zealand Government. Our objective is to encourage swift settlement of contractual and financial disputes between international students and their providers in New Zealand. As an independent and impartial service, we are not affiliated with any Education providers.

Why did we do this blog?
Even if we need to step in one day to help you resolve a dispute, we want you to enjoy studying and living in our amazing country as much as we do. To that end, we’ve created this content so that you may continue to explore and experience the best New Zealand can offer.