The owner of a school for international students has accused a state agency of using "Gestapo" tactics to close it down.
The school, the Excellent International Academy in Auckland, was deregistered on January 26 after the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) found "concerns about the provider's English language proficiency testing and compliance with assessment and moderation requirements in relation to the NZ Diploma in Business".
About 15 staff have lost their jobs and NZQA has advised the academy's 145 students from Asia, South America and Saudi Arabia to apply for places at other schools.
Academy owner Roya Jazbani said NZQA deregistered the school even though she made changes last June to fix the assessment problems that the authority identified last May.
The authority ordered her on November 22 to stop enrolling new students for the Diploma of Business. She submitted a response on December 13 detailing the changes she had made, but said she heard nothing back until January 26, when three NZQA officials arrived at the academy in Waverley St.
"Two men and a woman in dark suits and suitcases walked in, asked for me, closed the door, and put the notice in front of me that the school will close in five hours, at 5pm," she said.
"I feel really angry that they treated me like a criminal. I feel like they were the Gestapo ... Why would they walk in there with suitcases and look like the Gestapo and shame me in front of everybody?"
The academy was established as an English language school in 2003 by Auckland directors Paul and Ingrid Goodenough, and was sold to investor Yanni Wei in 2010. In an April 2013 evaluation, NZQA said it was confident in the academy's educational performance but "not yet confident" in its self-assessment capability.
Iranian-born Jazbani, who was then chief executive of Advanced Training Academy, bought the Excellent academy in August 2013, revamped the courses and introduced internationally standardised testing every 12 weeks. A follow-up evaluation in July 2014 said NZQA was then "confident" in its assessment as well as its educational performance.
However Jazbani then expanded the school to offer Diploma of Business courses from 2016. She said NZQA told her in May 2017 that it was "not happy with the quality of the assessments" for the business courses at the end of 2016, but she said that was because the courses were new.
"We started the programme in 2016. It takes time," she said.
She hired a new academic manager, Robyn Bailey, who said she immediately made changes.
"In response to their draft report we developed an urgent action plan, which we actioned immediately by the end of June," Bailey said.
"They never once looked at any of our assessment or moderation after March."
Bailey said other "big players" in international education had been allowed to keep trading, but she believed NZQA might have targeted Jazbani as a migrant and a woman.
"There seem to have been a disproportionate number of schools owned by women – at least five owned by women have been closed down in the last year," she said.
NZQA deputy chief executive Dr Grant Klinkum said the authority acted in accordance with the Education Act.
He pointed to a High Court judgment on December 19 which turned down an application by the NZ National College for a judicial review of NZQA's decision to deregister it.
"NZQA's role is to ensure that quality education is delivered to students and that New Zealand qualifications are robust, credible, and internationally recognised," he said.
"Where there is evidence that quality education has not been delivered, and correct assessment has not taken place, NZQA will intervene and take strong action to ensure the integrity of education outcomes."
Excellent International Academy is the fifth tertiary institution to have been deregistered in the past year.