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NZ university backs down on threat to withhold Chinese student's degree

(Xinhua)

15:14, August 30, 2011

WELLINGTON, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese woman who was threatened with deportation for studying at a New Zealand university without a valid visa has had her degree conferred, New Zealand media reported Tuesday.

Auckland-based AUT University told Mengna Wang, 23, earlier this year that she could not graduate because she did not hold a valid student permit, but last week awarded her a Bachelor of Business degree.

AUT spokeswoman Barbara Bilcich told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that the decision would not set a precedent as it was a "unique" situation.

Wang returned to China in April, leaving a controversy raging around the university's decision.

Campaign group Kiwi Immigration Watch accused Immigration New Zealand, the government agency for issuing and enforcing visas, of unfairly deporting foreign students without permits while merely issuing warnings to institutions that broke immigration laws.

Kiwi Immigration Watch described the warnings as a "slap on the wrist" that would encourage schools to break the law in order to profit from students.

Under New Zealand's Immigration Act, education providers are legally obliged to ensure that only students who have lawful authority to study are permitted to enroll.

The Code of Practice also stipulates that the provider must retain a copy of the student visa, which it must sight before a student begins study.

Despite the fact that Wang had not held a valid visa since 2007, ICL Business School and AUT enrolled her as a student and allowed her to complete diploma and degree courses after she paid them about 40,000 NZ dollars (33,948 U.S. dollars) in fees.

Wang told the New Zealand Herald in April that she was willing to return to China, but wanted to leave New Zealand with her bachelor's degree in business in accounting.

"I have worked hard to pass every single paper I took at AUT, and I don't think it's fair that they withhold my degree solely on the basis of my immigration status," the paper quoted her as saying.

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