Student complaints about their education provider

If you are a student and you have a complaint about your education experience, this page tells you what you can do.

If you are not a student, but you have concerns about an education provider that you think NZQA should investigate, please refer to the advising NZQA of concerns about a tertiary education provider page instead.

Student complaint process

If you have concerns about something at an education provider that has directly affected you, this is what you can do:

1. Raise your concerns with the education provider

If you are a student, and your concerns are related to your course or experiences at the education provider, it’s important that you give them the opportunity to respond to your concerns. You can do this informally in the first instance (for example, discussing an academic issue with your tutor), but use your education provider’s formal complaints process if that is not successful.

All education providers must have processes for receiving and responding to student complaints, and for appealing academic results. These must be easily accessible to students, and education providers should be fair in implementing those processes. Check your student handbook for the complaint process. If it’s not there, ask the staff for a copy.

Follow the complaint process carefully and put your concerns in writing. Your education provider might offer to meet you to discuss the situation, this is often a helpful way to work through a problem. If you want support during the process, you can nominate someone like a friend or family member to help you write out your complaint, and go with you to meetings. At the end of the complaint process, it’s reasonable to expect a written response from your education provider explaining the outcome of your complaint.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you can then escalate it to the appropriate authority.

2. Escalate your concerns

The nature of your complaint will determine what organsiation you should escalate your concerns to. We've put together a list of concerns and the organisation that looks into those complaints below:

List of concerns and the organisation to contact

If your concerns relate to:

You can contact:

Pastoral care processes (tertiary learners and international students), the quality of a non-university programme, or the management of a private training establishment

NZQA

An international student’s financial or contractual dispute with their education provider

iStudent Complaints

A domestic learner's financial or contractual dispute with their education provider

Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution

The quality of a university programme or qualification

Universities New Zealand

Administrative acts and decisions of a public education provider (universities, wānanga, or Te Pūkenga institutions)

Office of the Ombudsman

Student loans and allowances

StudyLink

Fees free or government funding for your course

Tertiary Education Commission

A primary or secondary school

The school board

Local Ministry of Education offices

Someone’s safety being at risk

New Zealand Police

WorkSafe New Zealand

Discrimination

Human Rights Commission

How information about you has been stored or used

Privacy Commissioner

If you are not sure about which organisation to escalate your concerns to, or if you would like more information about the student complaint process, complete our online enquiry form or email us at risk@nzqa.govt.nz

Raising your concerns with NZQA

If you are not satisfied with how your education provider has responded to your formal complaint, you can escalate your complaint to NZQA.

NZQA's complaint process

To make a formal complaint to NZQA, you need to complete and send us our formal complaint form (PDF, 145KB), along with your supporting evidence. We will assess the information you provide and let you know if NZQA can accept it for a formal complaint investigation.

NZQA may decline to investigate your complaint

NZQA might decline to investigate your formal complaint in the following instances:

  • your complaint with your education provider is still underway, or you have not attempted to follow that process
  • the issue is from too long ago (usually more than 12 months)
  • it relates to matters that fall outside of NZQA’s responsibility to monitor
  • it is already being investigated by another agency
  • it is clear that the education provider has fully and appropriately dealt with the issue
  • there isn’t enough evidence
  • you have not fully authorised NZQA to investigate
  • there is another way to resolve your complaint

If NZQA accepts your formal complaint, we will write to your education provider to let them know you have made a formal complaint to us and we have accepted to investigate it. This letter will include a summary of your concerns and the relevant NZQA requirements, and ask them for a response. NZQA will assess the information they send back against with the information you've given us and write to both parties with our initial findings, outlining whether we consider a breach of NZQA requirements has occurred.

You and your education provider will have the opportunity to identify errors of fact and send in further evidence for NZQA to review before we finalise our findings.

Making a formal complaint to NZQA

To make a formal complaint to NZQA about an education provider:

  1. Download and complete the formal complaint form (PDF, 145KB).
  2. Collect your supporting evidence (e.g. emails, letters, screen shots).
  3. Email a scan of your completed form, along with scans of any supporting evidence, to risk@nzqa.govt.nz.

Or send your completed complaint form with your supporting evidence, to:

The Complaints Officer
Quality Assurance Division
P O Box 160
Wellington 6140

If you need more information on the complaints process, contact NZQA at risk@nzqa.govt.nz or 0800 697 296.

Financial and contractual disputes

If your complaint includes a request for a refund or compensation because you think your education provider hasn't given you the service they promised, NZQA will likely refer you to another organisation to manage your dispute.

Financial and contractual disputes are managed through the relevant Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme. Tertiary education providers and Code signatories are required to comply with the Dispute Resolution Scheme Rules. There are two schemes and operators, one for international learners and another for domestic tertiary learners:

iStudent Complaints

iStudent Complaints is the appointed operator of the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS), which was set up to resolve financial and contractual disputes for international learners, and 

Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution

Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution is the appointed operator of the Education (Domestic Tertiary Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS), which was set up to resolve financial and contractual disputes for domestic tertiary learners.

Which one should I use?

If you aren't sure about which dispute resolution scheme applies to you, or whether you are an international or domestic learner, email us at risk@nzqa.govt.nz

Frequently asked questions

What kind of complaints can NZQA investigate?

NZQA is responsible for monitoring a range of requirements. Generally speaking, these requirements relate to the processes that an education provider has, and how those processes are carried out. These include:

What kind of complaints does NZQA not look at?

The types of complaints that NZQA does not look into include:

  • complaints about schools
  • complaints about universities
  • alleged crimes
  • staff performance
  • decisions to cancel a course
  • requests for refunds (unless your request is in the withdrawal period, and your education provider is a private training establishment)
  • requests for compensation
  • requests to re-mark assessments of overturn grades

Can I make an anonymous complaint?

Generally, no. To make sure our investigation is fair to both parties, we need to tell the education provider who has made the complaint so that they can give a full response to it.

Occasionally, there are circumstances where a complainant feels there may be repercussions if the education provider is given their name. If you want your name to be withheld, you must indicate this on the formal complaint form and explain why. You should also be aware that the details in your complaint might be specific enough for the education provider to figure out who made the complaint, even if your name is withheld. We will discuss possible options with you.

Can I make a complaint on someone's behalf?

You can make a complaint on someone's behalf if you have their permission to do so. The student should complete the formal complaint form, and this should be sent to us with a statement signed by the student to confirm that they want you to act on their behalf. If you send in the formal complaint form without that statement, we will contact the student directly to confirm you can act for them.

Can we make a group complaint?

If you are a group of students who want to complaint about something that's affected all of you, you can make a group complaint. Your group should appoint one main contact person, to fill out the form and communicate with NZQA. You should include a list of the following for each of the students in your group attached to the formal complaint form:

  • name
  • email address
  • international learner: yes or no
  • nationality if they are an international learner
  • confirmation that you have read and agree to all five points listed in section 5 (Authorisations) on page 3 of the formal complaint form (PDF, 145KB)
  • signature

How long does NZQA's formal complaint process take?

We aim to send our initial formal complaint investigations within 65 working days of receiving the formal complaint. If there are any delays, we will let you know.

What happens if NZQA upholds my formal complaint?

If NZQA’s investigation shows that the education provider’s processes have not been followed or that they were not applied fairly, we will work with the education provider to make sure that failure doesn't happen again. This might include NZQA doing further quality assurance monitoring of the education provider.

The education provider might offer you some kind of remedy as a result of NZQA's investigation, which you can choose to accept or not. NZQA does not get directly involved in these types of discussions between you and your education provider.

If you are not offered anything, or you are not happy with what you have been offered by your education provider, you can use NZQA's investigation findings towards a financial or contractual dispute with one of the dispute resolution scheme operators. If you are:

Can NZQA help if I can't, or don't want to, make a formal complaint?

If you have concerns about your education provider but can't, or don't want to, make a complaint to NZQA, we might still be able to help.

With your permission, we may call your education provider to clarify things and to make sure that you and your education provider have the same understanding on the situation and any next steps. This is what we call 'informally dealing with a concern'. This is not an investigation and there are no written findings as a result.

Resources for education providers

If you are an education provider, feel free to use and share these complaints service resources.

For all international learners

NZQA complaint information brochure (PDF, 122KB)

iStudent Complaints flyer (PDF, 2.4MB)

For domestic tertiary learners

Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution flyer 1 (PDF, 602KB)

Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution flyer 2 (PDF, 1.4MB)

 
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