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Students let down by Open Polytechnic of NZ

MEDIA RELEASE

21 March 2006

Students let down by Open Polytechnic of NZ

Students are the big losers and the reputation of NZ education and training providers overseas has been severely tarnished as a result of the behaviour of the NZ Open Polytechnic’s management of its subsidiary business, the failed Stotts Correspondence College in Australia.

Tim Smith, National Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET), made this observation during his meeting in Wellington this morning with the CEO of the NZ Open Polytechnic, Paul Grimwood.

Mr Smith was unsuccessful in gaining the Polytechnic’s support to assist with the costs associated with the relocation of the 600 Stotts students left high and dry following the decision by the Polytechnic to close its Australian based operations.

“We recognise that this is a business venture gone badly. However, it is not a question of attributing blame; it is a question of putting students first,” Mr Smith said.

“The Polytechnic has a moral responsibility to these students. Lost tuition fees aside, at the very least it should assist with the cost of relocating students to other providers so they can finish their studies.

“We know it has the funds – what’s lacking is the will.”

Paul Grimwood is on the record as saying the Polytechnic was in the top two or three polytechnics in terms of the money it had (NZ Education Review, February 23).

“Australian providers must now pick up the bill for continuing the education of these students to ensure that they are not out of pocket.” Mr Smith said.

“As Minister for Finance, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen is committed to creating a common Trans-Tasman business environment. Yet as Minister for Tertiary Education, he appears reluctant to step in and ask that his Polytechnic do the right thing by these Australian students.”

“One cannot wonder what the position of the NZ Government would be if the situation was reversed: an Australian provider leaving NZ students in the lurch.”

New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers (NZAPEP) President, Paul Decker, also expressed his concern with the effect of the Polytechnic’s actions on NZ providers operating internationally.

“The reputation and integrity of New Zealand education and training providers is not something we can afford to put at risk,” Mr Decker said.

“Any bad publicity relating to one of our providers, especially a large New Zealand publicly funded provider, has the potential of doing untold damage to our international education industry. This is particularly concerning when you consider that this same Government introduced immense compliance legislation against New Zealand private providers, when several years ago a New Zealand private provider effectively did the same thing. The same onus should rest on the publicly funded Open Polytechnic.

ENDS

ACPET is the national industry association for private providers of post-compulsory education and training to Australian and international students. Its membership includes more than 1000 organisations delivering a full range of higher education, vocational education and training and English language courses to students in all Australian states and territories.

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