New Zealand’s new Labour government has said publicly that it is giving serious consideration to regulating offshore education agents.
Speaking at rally on 29 October organised by the Migrant Worker Association, Labour Party MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan said:
The rally was organised to address the plight of 150 Indian international students who were deported by the previous NZ government due to visa fraud. Many of the students blamed the fraud on the education agents they used to help them apply to study in New Zealand.
Sovereignty is a bummer
I find it interesting when governments talk tough about cracking down on agents.
It might sound good, and maybe it wins political points, but it doesn’t hold much water because it ignores the pesky issues of national sovereignty and, well, the law.
No government can effectively regulate in a foreign country no matter how much it might want to, or how tough it talks.
Why? Because of the principle of national sovereignty, which is quite simply the authority of a country to govern itself.
It takes two to tango
The other obvious issue that is oddly missing from Ms Radhakrishnan’s comments is any mention of the New Zealand institutions that are using dodgy education agents.
Educational institutions in NZ are within the NZ Government’s jurisdiction and can be regulated.
More to the point, institutions are the appropriate starting point for regulation, because a fundamental principle of agency law is that principal is responsible for actions of their agent.
If an institution wants to use education agents to market its courses, it is incumbent on that institution to implement best practice agent management policies and systems. Failure to do so is a recipe for unethical agent practice, and the institution will not (and should not) have a leg to stand on when things inevitably go wrong.
What will NZ do next on education agent regulation?
My best guess is that the NZ Government will look over the fence to see what the neighbor has done in their yard – i.e. they’ll take a close look at what Australia has done.
Australia and NZ have a lot in common and are bonded by a wide range of geographical, historical, cultural, sporting and political ties.
Australia has legislated extensively on the use of education agents, focusing attention on the obligations of educational institutions that use agents. In summary the Australian system imposes stringent education agent management requirements on institutions, along with the threat of sanction and/or deregistration if adequate adequate systems are not in place, or if institutions continue to work with education agents that they know to be dishonest.
It’s a pretty good bet that a new NZ Government will look closely at the Australian regulatory framework to see if there are aspects of it that could be copied and implemented in New Zealand.
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