25 Jan 2017

Tertiary institute had dirty classrooms, under-qualified tutors

5:48 pm on 25 January 2017

A failed Auckland tertiary institution had just four toilets for nearly 200 students, a head business tutor with no business qualifications, and piles of unmarked assignments.

The shortcomings were among many spotted in a surprise visit to the Aotearoa Tertiary Institute (ATI) by New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) staff in November.

The authority announced this week that it had deregistered the institute and its students, most of them from India, would be able to continue their education at Manukau Institute of Technology.

University or secondary school students study in a classroom.

Aotearoa Tertiary Institute has been deregistered for breaking rules relating to staff competence, student attendance and achievement. Photo: 123RF

The monitoring visit report listed multiple failings.

It found dirty classrooms that had not been cleaned in the three or four days prior to the NZQA visit, a significant number of absent students in two of three classes, and insufficient teaching space.

"Classrooms are too small for the numbers of students on the roll. Although NZQA was unable to measure classroom dimensions to determine compliance with building code regulations, classrooms were clearly cramped for the numbers of students in attendance," the report said.

The report said the school's website had errors that could mislead prospective students.

It said the institute did not have a register for student complaints and did not monitor student attendance, which was required to ensure students were studying rather than working illegally.

The school had too few staff, including a part-time principal, and the owner was unable to produce any of the policies or procedures requested by NZQA's review team.

The leader of the institute's business programme had no business qualifications on his CV and the two other academic staff did not appear to meet the requirement of having qualifications at least one level higher than the qualification they were teaching.

The school had not been checking that its tutors' marking was accurate and most assessments from the past two years were piled up in a tutor's office. Other assessments were stored off-site and it was not clear that they had been marked.

"Records of student results (e.g. mark books) are non-existent and so it would not be possible to verify reported results against actual assessments held on site," the report said.

The school was supposed to report students' results within two months of each assessment, but that was not happening and the school's owner said most assignments were not marked until students graduated.

"No fail grades have been reported since February 2016."

The institute had poor record-keeping, some students had no record of having the required insurance for their stay, some had no evidence of completing English-language tests and two students had no record of having a study visa.

The report said the organisation failed to seek NZQA approval for a change of ownership that occurred in September last year when a Chinese company, NZ Silveray Group Ltd, bought 233 newly-issued shares in the company that runs the school, South Canterbury English Language Ltd.

The qualifications authority said most of ATI's students were Indian and a significant minority were Fijian and Chinese.

"Some of these students had not yet started their studies at ATI, and they will be offered a full refund so that they can make an alternative study choice," the authority said.

NZQA said other students were part-way through their studies or had completed them.

It said some students' results had not been reported to NZQA and the Manukau Institute of Technology would assess students and decide whether those papers could be confirmed.

The authority said it started investigating ATI because standard monitoring of the institute raised concerns.

A timeline it provided to RNZ said it conducted a focused review of ATI's business diploma at the start of July last year.

It then made an unannounced visit to ATI in mid-November. That visit prompted a compliance notice that required ATI "to immediately cease enrolling students and to take steps to update its enrolment and academic records".

NZQA told ATI on 7 December 2016 that it was considering cancelling the institute's registration. The institute responded and NZQA advised ATI on 17 January 2017 that it had cancelled its registration.

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