The Government is moving swiftly to change the law to improve the welfare and pastoral care of students living in university halls of residence and other tertiary hostels.
Cabinet has agreed to several changes, including creating a new mandatory Code of Practice that sets out the duty of pastoral care that tertiary education providers have for their students.
“The recent death at a student hall of residence in Christchurch exposed the limitations of our current system,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“Halls and hostels charge a premium for their accommodation and parents have every right to expect a high level of care for their sons and daughters.
“Students should also be assured when they choose to live in a hall or hostel that there are minimum standards of safety and that there is support available to them if they need it.
“There is no consistent approach to the welfare and pastoral care of domestic tertiary students and we needed to change that swiftly.
“We are changing the Education Act to establish a Code of Practice for Pastoral Care for domestic tertiary students which providers must comply with. It will include greater clarity about the expectations for halls of residence.
“Tertiary education providers could have complied with a voluntary code which was created in 2004, but the self-regulation approach has failed to maintain adequate and consistent standards across the board.
“That’s why we will now be working with the sector to create a mandatory permanent code which will come into effect in 2021.
“We are also creating a new offence so the Crown can take legal action if any breaches result in serious harm or the death of a student.
“The offence will carry penalties of up to $100,000.
“More immediately, an interim code setting out the Government’s expectation of pastoral care of domestic students will be developed in time for the start of the 2020 academic year.
“The starting point for developing the interim code will be the voluntary Code of Practice for Tertiary Student Accommodation developed in 2004.
“For international students there’s already a high level of pastoral care and support required as set out in the Code for Pastoral Care of International Students.
“The new offences and penalties will apply to both tertiary and international codes from January 2020.
“We are putting safeguards in place to prevent another tragedy like the one at the Sonoda student accommodation,” Chris Hipkins said.
Here is the Cabinet paper and the existing voluntary code which will be used as a starting point for the interim code.