Agents playing key role in New Zealand pilot

23 July, 2015

Agents have played an integral role in Immigration New Zealand’s Industry Partnership Pilot (IPP), designed to enable fast-track visa student visa processing for trusted institutions, according to a recently released evaluation of the scheme.

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Immigration New Zealand (INZ) commenced the IPP in January last year with 25 providers from a cross-section of the international education industry, and has published feedback on evaluations of the pilot so far based on interviews with participating schools and a selection of agents.

The pilot scheme allows providers to nominate students for fast-tracking on the basis that the school is satisfied the student has sufficient funds and has genuine intentions to study. INZ will consider these requirements met and will focus on the remainder of the application.

In the appraisal, INZ found that many educators passed responsibility on to trusted agents to collect and verify the extra documents required under IPP obligations.

The use of agents is particularly important in the assessment of maintenance funds, said INZ. “The assessing of funds was raised by providers as the most problematic area of the current IPP model. Providers feel they have the least experience and knowledge in this aspect, and that this requires the most amount of extra resourcing. Providers therefore outsourced this aspect to agents, as checking financial documents in-house would require staff with a particular skill set. Further, the extra time required to check these documents would increase the time taken to issue students with letters of acceptance, negating a key objective of the IPP,” it said in the evaluation summary.

In a follow-up survey on IPP, only 11 of the responding 23 schools said they were “confident” in assessing sufficient funds, the lowest of any category of the IPP, while 10 were “moderately confident” and two were “not confident”.

Providers said they managed the risks associated with the outsourcing these duties to agents by developing checklists and mandating their use by agents through contracts. Agents were also required to sign a contract before vouching for student documentation.

Two thirds of the agents surveyed by INZ about the pilot programme reported increased timeliness in student visa decision making, while 18 of the 23 schools that responded to the survey also said IPP had had a positive impact on visa decision times. However, schools added that the IPP was not used in low-risk markets where the turnaround times were already fast.

Although none of the responding schools have reported an increase in student numbers so far as a result of the IPP, benefits mentioned include an increase in students arriving on time, students enquiring about how to access the IPP and a rise in conversation rates. The improved relationships formed with INZ as a result of the pilot were cited as one of the most positive aspects.

However, both providers and INZ were cautious about marketing the benefits of IPP as a promotional tool while it was still in its pilot stage.

Nonetheless, of the agents surveyed in the evaluation report, two thirds said they thought IPP would make it more likely that a student would choose New Zealand as a study destination, and 80 per cent thought the offer of IPP would make it more likely that a student would chose that provider over a non-IPP school.

Matthew Knott
News Editor



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