Know Your Rights as an International Student Tuition Fee Refunds

MoneynzcleanblThis weeks blog is authored by QCL lawyer Tom Huang. Know Your Rights as an International Student when you are trying to get Tuition Fee Refunds.

To read more articles by Tom click here. To download this article as a print and tablet friendly PDF click here. If you are worried you aren’t getting a fair deal or your rights are being ignored get legal advice by contacting one of the lawyers it Queen City Law. To contact us click here.  Our team of lawyers Tom HuangRita Worner, Tina Hwang, and Bradley So are experts in representing foreign students in NZ. We work alongside you to get good results. We are in constant contact with Aucklands leading education facilities and have a number of contacts in this field in NZ. Our team speak Malay, Tagalog, Spanish and Mandarin beside English, so drop in to our central office on Queen Street.


International Education is New Zealand’s fifth largest export earner and International students are vital to New Zealand, both in terms of the economic contribution they make while they are studying in New Zealand and particularly as ambassadors for New Zealand when they return home.

However, fewer international students were choosing to study in New Zealand due to dodgy education providers and unscrupulous student agents damaging New Zealand’s export education reputation. Encountering difficulties obtaining refunds of the tuition fee is only one of the examples.

Generally speaking, there are several government bodies covering the entire education system in New Zealand. Ministry of Education has a substantial operational role in the early childhood and schooling sectors such as strategic leadership and policy development. The Tertiary Education Commission ( and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority ( have a more direct interface with the tertiary education sector. International Education Appeal Authority is a judicial body specifically designed for international students to make complaints about the care, advice or services they receive from their education provider or the provider’s agent.

For the interests of international students who are studying at private training establishments (PTEs), the relevant legislations specify minimum entitlement for the international students to claim the refunds.

From 15 October 2012, the statutory refund rules for international students enrolled in PTEs for courses of three months and more are:

a) PTEs will be able to retain up to 25% of total fees paid if an international student withdraws within the first 10 working days (based on actual expenses incurred) (5 working days if the course is of five weeks or more but less than three months);

b) The refund period starts on the first day on which the PTE requires the student to attend the establishment to receive tuition as part of the programme or training scheme;

c) In order for a PTE to retain payments up to the maximum percentage of the fee total, the PTE must show it has incurred expenses in relation to one or more cost components (including agent’s commission) set out in the statute and the amount it will retain is not more than the total of the expenses incurred.

If the course is under five weeks and the withdrawal occurs up to the end of the 2nd day after the start of the course, the PTE must pay an amount equal to the fees paid less a deduction of 50%. However, if two days constitutes the full amount of tuition paid for by the student, the PTE may retain 100% of the payment.

Note: separate rules apply to domestic students.