26 November 2014 at 9:00 am

Roundtable explores distance education recognition

The recognition of New Zealand’s distance education programmes was the focus of a roundtable held alongside the 8th New Zealand-China Joint Working Group on Education and Training.

The roundtable involved senior officials from Chinese education agencies and representatives from the University of Otago, Massey University, New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Universities New Zealand and Education New Zealand.

The recognition of New Zealand distance education programmes has been an item of discussion between New Zealand and Chinese authorities for many years. Currently all foreign qualifications delivered by distance, or with a distance component, are not recognised by Chinese authorities.

“This isn’t a New Zealand-specific issue,” says ENZ's Regional Director Alexandra Grace.  “We are very much at first steps, in terms of building understanding of how we assure quality outside of traditional face-to-face qualification delivery. Greater understanding of our processes may also contribute to China’s domestic reform of its local distance qualifications."

The New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement signed in 2008 included commitments to undertake work on “evaluation of the quality assurance criteria for qualifications which include a distance delivery component.”

Discussions on the recognition of New Zealand distance education qualifications have been ongoing since then.

The roundtable showcased Otago University’s renowned Master in Aviation Medicine qualification which is fully taught by distance and has been offered for over 26 years. Over 100 students are currently studying the programme from the Middle East, North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Graduates of the programme meet internationally recognised ‘best practice’ standards for aviation medicine practitioners and are frequently employed by airlines including Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Qantas.

The roundtable also featured Massey University’s Master’s degree programmes in Veterinary Medicine (Biosecurity) and Public Health (Biosecurity) which has been completed by nine senior Chinese officials. The qualifications, which require four months to be spent at Massey and the remainder by distance study from China (one year in total), represent collaboration in teaching between Massey’s teaching and research groups, EpiCentre, and the Centre for Public Health Research. 

Further work is slated on sharing of information and best practice.

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