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This information directly affects:

  • Domestic tertiary students, their whānau and tertiary education providers
  • International students, their whānau and international education providers.

What we are proposing

We are proposing to combine the two schemes to form a single scheme for international learners and domestic tertiary students. This follows the recent introduction of the Domestic Tertiary Student Contract Resolution Scheme (the domestic scheme).

We are proposing to combine the domestic scheme with the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme (the international scheme) to create one scheme for tertiary and international students (the combined scheme).

Combining the domestic and international schemes will simplify the complaints system, make it more accessible and easier to navigate for learners, and reduce compliance duplication for providers. It will also ensure all learners and providers have access to a scheme that is up to date with best practice, puts people at the centre, and embeds Te Tiriti o Waitangi.


The Education and Training Act 2020 (the Act) establishes a dispute resolution scheme to resolve disputes between domestic tertiary learners and international learners and their education providers.

The international and domestic schemes hear disputes relating to financial and contractual matters and claims for redress linked to breaches of the The Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 (the Code).

There are currently two external dispute resolution schemes that help learners and providers resolve disputes if they have been unable to resolve them through the provider’s internal complaints processes:

What is being proposed?

We are proposing to combine the two schemes to form a single scheme for international learners and domestic tertiary students. This follows the recent introduction of the Domestic Tertiary Student Contract Resolution Scheme (the domestic scheme).

All learners who can currently use the existing schemes will be able to access the proposed combined scheme (international students and domestic tertiary students).

The combined scheme will have the same scope as the existing international and domestic schemes: financial and contractual matters and claims for redress linked to breaches of the Code.

The rules of the combined scheme will be closely based on those recently established in the domestic scheme. There is limited difference between the domestic scheme rules and the international scheme rules. The domestic scheme rules are more up to date, reflecting current best practice, embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and expanding supports in the scheme for learners (including interpretation, translation, or language services). The domestic scheme was also designed to ensure disputes are dealt with in a way that considers the specific cultural needs or circumstances of parties in the dispute resolution process.

There are minimal changes proposed for the rules for the combined scheme.

What will be different in the new scheme?

We are proposing some differences between the existing schemes and the new scheme to improve its performance. Most of these are minor technical changes but some may have an impact on the experience of people using the scheme. We are interested in your thoughts on these.

We are proposing:

  • To enable homestay families or caregivers who are contractually responsible for international learners to make claims and go through the dispute resolution process on behalf of the international student, if the student consents.
  • To require the claimant to include whether they have been through the education provider’s internal complaints process in their claim when lodging a complaint with the DRS. This will save time for the parties and operator and help achieve faster resolution.
  • To clarify that where the DRS operator is required to refer students to supports outside the scheme, they are not expected to fund these services. The services referenced are external to the DRS and its scope, and have their own funding sources but the DRS will remain free.
  • Changes to the rules around the way information is shared at the beginning of the process.
    • This includes clarifying that the operator is not required to inform education providers that a dispute has been lodged, until the case is accepted (and not at all if it is declined). This provides certainty for learners that if their claim is declined, their provider will not be informed.
    • The other proposed change is to the requirement for the operator to inform the student claimant whether a dispute has been accepted or declined, and the provider if it has been accepted within 10 working days after the claim is made. We have heard that there are often delays between when the claim is made and when the operator is sent all the information needed to make their decisions. We are intending that the new rules require the operator to inform the relevant student/provider within 10 days of having the necessary information to make the decision.
  • Changes to clarify that where disputes are combined for the resolution process e.g., because they are similar claims with the same education provider, remedies can be individual.
  • Confirming that consensual methods should be prioritised in resolving disputes, except in exceptional circumstances. 

Why do we need a combined dispute resolution scheme for domestic tertiary and international learners?

We know that the international and domestic schemes are effectively helping to resolve disputes between learners and providers.

Not all learners are aware of the international and domestic schemes and having two different schemes can make it more difficult to get the right information.

We have heard that it can be difficult for learners to navigate the complaints system and work out what applies to their circumstances. A combined scheme will be more accessible for all learners and easier to navigate.

We know that there is a good standard of compliance from providers with the international and domestic schemes. We have heard that having separate schemes can be confusing for providers when understanding their obligations to learner wellbeing and safety. Having a combined scheme will reduce complexity and avoid unnecessary duplication of compliance requirements.

International learners have distinct and diverse needs. But it is also important that requirements for them are not set at a lower level than those for domestic learners. The combined scheme would keep the strengths of the existing schemes, but ensure the same high standard, flexible, and up-to-date scheme is available to all learners. It will allow providers to build on the work they are doing to comply with the schemes and simplify compliance requirements so that improving outcomes for learners can remain the key focus.

How will we transition to the combined scheme?

We are intending to have the proposed combined scheme in place for 1 January 2024. At the time of transition, there may be cases still in progress with the international and domestic schemes. We want to ensure that disruption is minimal for those affected.

We are proposing a transition period, where the international and domestic schemes will continue operating for a limited period after the combined scheme is in place. Their function will be limited to resolving existing cases. At the same time, new claims will be able to be submitted to the combined scheme. This will mean people who have already started the dispute resolution process will not have to change to a new scheme midway through the resolution process or start the process again which can be costly and frustrating.

Who will run the scheme?

The combined scheme will be operated by a single operator, according to the scheme rules. The scheme operator is appointed by the Minister (as enabled by section 536 (4) of the Act).

Have your say

We want to make sure the combined scheme reflects the needs of its users – domestic tertiary students, international students, and education providers. Having a wide range of voices is important to inform the decision-making process. It will help us to identify the arrangements that will best support complaints and dispute resolution to make a stronger system.

We want to hear from you

  • Do you support combining the two schemes and would this have an impact for you?
  • Are there any changes or additions you think we should make to the rules to make the new scheme work better?
  • Do you think that the needs of learners and providers will be met under the proposed scheme or are changes we should make?
  • Do you agree with the differences we are proposing between the existing scheme and the new scheme?

Ways to have your say

There are a range of ways you can have your say on the ideas raised in this consultation, including:

Download the discussion document [DOCX, 29KB]

Consultation closes on 19 December 2022.


Please let us know if you have any feedback on this proposal.

If you have questions, you can get in touch with the team at the Ministry of Education at drs@education.govt.nz.