A school for international students which failed 15 of 16 checks on its marking standards has received a vote of confidence in its educational performance from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
In a report made public this week, NZQA reviewers say AWI International Education Group in Auckland's Queen St passed only one of the 16 items it submitted last year for moderation - an external checking process on the accuracy and integrity of a school's results.
It failed all three checks on its Diploma of Business course, a qualification now at the top of NZQA's watchlist because of widespread cheating in the past two years.
The reviewers say the results, which became available after their initial visit in November, give cause for concern and the school's history of suspect results across several programmes "challenges the validity" of its high pass rates.
Yet the report gives the school an overall rating of "confident in educational performance" and restricts its doubts to saying NZQA is "not yet confident in self-assessment".
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce yesterday defended the rating as appropriate as it placed the school in Category 3, the second-lowest of four categories, meaning it would face further monitoring.
The assessment had taken other factors into account, such as the views of employers, universities and other educational institutions which dealt with AWI's students.
AWI executive assistant Debbie Thackeray said the 16 standards the school submitted for checks were only a tiny fraction of the credit value of the courses. She said the standards had not failed - they had simply not passed and needed to be modified.
However, Languages International chief executive Darren Conway, who has persistently criticised NZQA for failing to crack down on systemic failure in the international student market, said the results "aren't just bad, they're disastrous".
He said it looked as if NZQA had been about to pass the school when the late results came in and had tried to rewrite the report without changing its overall decision.
One source familiar with the school said the results were undeniably bad but the school was actually losing students because it refused to "give out free passes", unlike many of its competitors.
Two polytechnics associated with the report also took issue with its findings.
The report says the school has lost its contract with Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) to offer business degrees and diplomas and that Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has begun monitoring computing students it has accepted for degrees.
However, NMIT said it was still offering degrees and diplomas through AWI. AUT said it had no specific agreement to take students from AWI and no record of students using cross credits from the school to enter its courses.