Goldsmith’s law risks exposing students to further for-profit failures

Posted By TEU on Apr 20, 2017 |


Tertiary Update Vol 20 No 14

For-profit tertiary education providers may continue to let down students if a law change proposed by the Tertiary Education Minister, Paul Goldsmith, goes ahead, the TEU has warned.

The warning follows news that one of New Zealand’s largest for-profit tertiary education providers for international students repeatedly failed to meet minimum educational standards, raising doubts about whether many of its qualifications are genuine.

Two damning reports by the New Zealand Qualifications Agency (NZQA) show that Cornell Institute of Business and Technology has been hit with four statutory conditions because of concerns about the legitimacy of its cookery courses and assessment practices in both its cookery and business programmes.

“Failing to provide students with the standard of education they had been promised is symptomatic of the problems associated with privatising tertiary education,” Jonathan Gee, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, said.

“It is troubling to see companies like Cornell cut corners to maximise profit instead of focusing on how to give students the best possible education. This principle of putting profits ahead of students is exactly what the proposed Education Amendment Bill is trying to entrench.”

Samples of business students’ work showed that Cornell passed students that were failed by independent moderators.

Cross-credits from Cornell’s own unapproved programmes were also used to wrongly pass cookery students, some of whom did not have even the basic skills necessary to fry an egg. Cornell was condemned by NZQA for providing evidence for some of its cookery passes that was “not authentic.”

Such practices could become more commonplace if Paul Goldsmith passes controversial legislation that will further open New Zealand’s tertiary education sector to private providers with similarly problematic track records to Cornell.

The law will allow Goldsmith, and all future Ministers, to use public funds intended for polytechnics, universities and wānanga to prop up companies like Cornell that pass students to maximise their profit, not because they have been educated to the standard Kiwis expect.

Cornell’s rapid expansion from 400 fee-paying students in 2012 to 1,500 in the current academic year has been accompanied by exorbitant staff turnover and a failure to “place sufficient attention and importance on education matters.”

In 2011, the New Zealand Herald reported that Cornell routinely accepted students on course that costs upwards of $35,000 who could barely speak a level of English required to understand what they were being taught.

Cornell’s rapid expansion raises serious concerns about whether the institution is profiting from fee-paying students it knows cannot understand the course they are signing up for.

“Having paid extortionate fees, students understandably want to pass. These reports show Cornell was only too happy to oblige, allowing it to profit from putting students’ education and future careers in peril,” Sandra Grey, TEU national president, said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Caregivers win historic equal pay settlement
  2. Staff cuts on the horizon at University of Otago
  3. Thousands to march for science on Saturday

Other news

NZQA data shows university entrance rates were significantly lower than NCEA level 3 pass rates last year – Stuff

Data from Universities New Zealand shows that most people with any form of tertiary qualification earn more throughout their lives than those who do not – Stuff

International students bring more than $90 million to the Manawatue economy every year – Stuff

Pharmacy interns have been added to the University of Otago, Wellington’s interprofessional education programme – Voxy

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