By: Simon Collins

Students at a private Manukau business school are still waiting for refunds after the school was closed by the NZ Qualifications Authority.

The authority deregistered the NZ Institute of Technical Training, known as NITT, on Friday after it failed to refund fees to 67 students in business courses whose accreditation was withdrawn on March 18 because of faulty marking.

“Many of the assessments NITT marked as a ‘pass’ should not have been passed,” the authority said.

NZQA acting deputy chief executive Rebecca Boyack said deregistration meant the school could no longer keep trading even for a handful of non-business students who were studying English.

All of the school’s 76 students will now get their fees refunded through an insurance scheme funded by the export education levy, and Boyack said NZQA was supporting them to enrol at other schools.

NITT managing director Kulbir Singh said most of the students came from India, with a minority from the Philippines and Samoa.

“They are all good students,” he said. “Most of them will be going to other schools.”

The closure is the end of a long road for the institute, whose main campus was at 13B Ronwood Ave, Manukau. It also had a small branch in Queen St, Auckland.

The school opened in 2011 after directors of the Melbourne-based Australian Institute of Technical Training (AITT) bought a NZ company formerly known as Don Thompson International Ltd in 2010.

Companies Office records show that the NZ company is still owned in four equal shares by Kulbir Singh and three AITT directors Gurdeep Singh Dhillon, Sandeep Sidhu and Jaswinder Singh. However Kulbir Singh has been the sole director since December 2017.

An NZQA review in November 2017 said the school had grown rapidly from 80 students in 2012 to 160 in 2017.

In 2016, 91 per cent of the students were from India, 7 per cent from Fiji, and 1 per cent each from Bangladesh and Samoa. Three-quarters were male.

However 80 per cent of Indian students who applied for visas to study at the school in 2016 were refused entry. Immigration NZ and NZQA wrote to the company in September 2016 expressing concerns and setting out improvement targets.

In August 2017 the House of Montrose Ltd, trading as the NZ Curriculum Design Institute, cancelled NITT’s licence to teach its Level 7 business course after finding that NITT “staffing capabilities and levels were below the standard required”.

The NZQA review in November 2017 found “weaknesses in assessment records, of assessor decision-making, detection of academic dishonesty and provision of feedback to learners”.

“It is recommended that steps be taken to ensure greater accuracy and consistency in marking,” the review said.

“Improvements are also needed in relation to establishing the authenticity of work submitted and assessing work where plagiarism, inappropriate copying or inadequate acknowledgement and referencing of source documents is detected.”

The school then appears to have been caught in a cycle of decline, with falling student numbers forcing staff cuts which made it even more difficult to maintain teaching standards. Staff shrank from eight fulltime and four part-time in November 2017 to seven still listed on the company website, including part-timers.

Kulbir Singh said there were now only five staff, some part-time.

A sign outside the institute’s deserted Manukau campus advertises a “clearance sale” of office furniture and computers.

The school is the latest of many, particularly those serving the Indian market, that have been closed by NZQA since Immigration NZ detected widespread visa fraud by Indian education agents in 2015. The last closure was of Regent International last October.

Another nine institutions, including Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, are still operating under conditions imposed by NZQA.

Source: NZ Herald

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