Problems with tertiary providers 

My son’s university wants to “exclude” him because of poor exam results. Can they do this?

Being excluded means that a student will not be able to continue studying at the tertiary institute until the exclusion period is over.

It is common for university and other tertiary courses to have a rule about the exclusion of students whose academic progress is not satisfactory. Students need to pass a number of required courses to get their degree, and if they can’t achieve enough passes in these courses, they can be excluded from study and not be allowed to return unless they have the approval of the governing board. In most cases there will be a warning before formal exclusion occurs, so it’s important to take this warning seriously.

It’s best for your son to talk to the course coordinator about what options he has, to see if there is anything that can be done to assist your son with his course work and enable him to stay on the course or return to it at a later date.

If your son believes the university was wrong to make this decision, he can make an appeal to the appropriate board or committee.

To see the rules about the minimum academic standards that must be achieved, visit the website of the institution.

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How do I complain about my tertiary education provider?  Can I get a refund on my course fees?

You need to talk to the particular course provider about the issue. All education providers must have a complaints process. If your formal complaint to the provider is not resolved satisfactorily, you can then make a complaint to one of the agencies listed below:  

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) will handle complaints about a registered education provider (e.g. a university, wānanga, institute of technology, polytechnic or private training establishment).

If your complaint to NZQA about your publicly owned course provider is not resolved, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman. More information about how to complain to the Ombudsman is on the Ombudsman website.

If your course provider is a private education provider they may be a member of Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand (ITENZ). In this case you can make a complaint to the Quality Commission. You can read about the complaints process and download a complaints form from their website.

If your situation is not described above, then you still have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act. In particular under the Consumer Guarantees Act, there is a guarantee that educational services will be delivered with reasonable skill and care. The Fair Trading Act protects you from being mislead about the nature of the service you are buying.

Some providers may refund your course fees if the course did not meet your needs, but their decision will be based on your circumstances - who you talked to about choosing the right course, what exactly your needs were, when you pulled out of the course and why, and the provider’s policy relating to refunds. 

You can try making a claim to the Disputes Tribunal to get a refund on your course fees.

Your local CAB can also help with making a complaint.

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I’m an international student – is the complaints process different for me?

The complaints process is generally the same as it is for domestic students. What’s different is that your education provider must have been approved by NZQA to enrol international students and must follow the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016.

You can make a complaint to your provider (and then to NZQA, if it is still unresolved) if you think they are not following the Code of Practice, or about any other concerns you have about the course or the provider.

As an international student you can also get free mediation with your provider if you have a financial or contractual dispute with them. To apply for this contact iStudent Complaints on 0800 00 66 75.

The mediation is provided under the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme and is free. More information about making a complaint on the iStudent Complaints website.