PBRF submission on Māori research

Posted By TEU on May 15, 2009 |

Submission of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa

on the PBRF Sector Reference Group consultation paper “Māori research”

15 May 2009

For further information please contact:

Jo Scott

Policy Analyst

Tertiary Education Union

Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa

Māori Research

The New Zealand Tertiary Education Union (TEU) Te HautÅ« Kahurangi o Aotearoa is the largest tertiary sector union in this country.  Our membership currently sits at approximately 11,500 members, covering all types of TEOs in the sector.

Prior to the formation of the TEU on 1st January 2009, both AUS and ASTE have made submissions on a range of topics related to the PBRF.  When the PBRF was introduced, we raised a number of concerns about the model, many of which have unfortunately emerged as issues in the sector.  Our stance on the PBRF model some years on from its introduction is that minimal changes should be implemented as a result of the current review.  We have taken this position with the current funding model as we believe that post-2012 the sector should vigorously debate alternative models that could replace the PBRF, which we regard as fundamentally flawed.

For this reason the TEU holds the view that further changes to the model, other than minor adjustments (such as clarifying guidelines) would put unnecessary pressure on academic and general staff involved in research and on TEOs, would risk further undermining the data obtained so far from assessment rounds, and should therefore be rejected.

Response to feedback questions

The TEU welcomed the introduction of the “Māori Knowledge and Development” panel for the 2003 and subsequent assessments.  This move in our view goes some way towards ensuring that particular world views that form the basis of research undertaken by some Māori researchers, and importantly where matters of tikanga and kawa are part of a research topic, are able to be appropriately evaluated.  Overall the panel appears to have worked well; our view is that any outstanding areas of concern are such that they can be dealt with relatively easily, through further analysis of current processes and by ensuring clearer information and communications at either TEC or TEO level.

Should the equity weighting be maintained?

The TEU agrees with retaining the equity weighting system as a means of supporting continued growth in Māori and Pacific research capability.

We do have a concern however that the use of this term to encompass both Māori and Pacific research development and capability risks clouding the significance of the relationship that Māori have with the Crown as a treaty partner.  Whilst we recognise that this initiative seeks to address article three issues (equity in citizenship rights), we are of the view that grouping Māori and Pacific peoples development together dilutes the uniqueness of the treaty relationship.

Whilst the equity weighting was introduced to provide an incentive to institutions to support Māori and Pacific research quality, are there other measures that may need to be given consideration to achieve this outcome?

  • Ensure that TEOs are implementing specific strategies to support the ongoing development of Māori and Pacific research capability;
  • Further highlight the equity weighting process to TEOs and Māori and Pacific staff prior to participation in each PBRF funding round.

Are there other strategic imperatives, such as research written in te reo Māori, that could be incentivised by adjusting the weighting?

Equity weighting supporting Māori degree completions is a reasonable means to encourage growth in Māori research capability, being a more generalised approach to supporting this aspect of research development.  However further and more specific incentivising is risky in that it may be perceived as interfering with the academic freedom of researchers.

Does the SRG need to take into account any of the issues raised by Smith and Ferguson (page 7 of the consultation paper) in its recommendations to the TEC?  If so, how?

  • Consider a process of equalising the weighting between the Māori Knowledge Development panel and other panels, to encourage TEOs/researchers to direct EPs using kaupapa Māori epistemologies and methodologies for assessment by this panel.
  • Extending the research degree completion measure to individual postgraduate papers/courses in which students undertake research with a Māori focus could assist in recognising capability by providing finer detail about the types of programmes or courses that attract this research interest.  The additional work required to obtain this information compared to the end result may not however warrant implementing such a proposal.
  • The TEU would also support measures to recognise quality assurance processes that occur during and after the production of the research outputs (for example tikanga-based processes) as part of the PBRF assessment, where these are recognised as a robust measure (such assessment procured through the MKD panel and/or their specialist advisors).

Are the PBRF 2006 guidelines sufficiently comprehensive and clear?  If not, how could they be made more so?

The 2006 guidelines are comprehensive and generally clearly expressed.  It may be beneficial to further highlight the function of the Māori Knowledge and Development panel, as a cross-discipline panel with a specialist focus, particularly to those institutions or subject areas whose research would benefit from the specialised critique offered by this panel.

Which of the issues raised by White and Grice (page 13 of the consultation paper) are particularly important to consider in the redesign of the PBRF Quality Evaluation 2012 and how might the SRG address them in their recommendations to the TEC?

The PBRF model has presented a number of problems since its inception, some of which we would argue are intractable unless this model is put aside post-2012.  To this end we suggest that the issues raised in the White and Grice report (all of which probably require further discussion and critique) should be re-evaluated in the lead-up to 2012, and that particular attention be paid to providing opportunities for Māori and Pacific researchers to participate in the process to establish a new model.

Matters to be considered in 2012 could therefore include:

  • How would such a model encompass diverse world-views?
  • Who defines ‘quality’ in terms of research outcomes?
  • How should this be measured?
  • How do we support subjects, disciplines or institutions with emerging research cultures?

Are the matters raised in the Adams Report material and if so how might the SRG address them in its recommendations to the TEC?

The key point the TEU takes from Adams’ comments is that there is a need to ensure we have excellent systems in place to support emerging areas of research, and those who work in these areas.  The Sector Reference Group should highlight this issue in its recommendations to the TEC, emphasising that whilst the sector should have a research profile ranging from new and emerging to more experienced researchers, we must focus on ensuring that all disciplines are supported to produce research outputs that compare favourably to national outcomes.  If for example in five years time (regardless of what research assessment model might be in place), the profile for the sector still shows unevenness between disciplines or subjects, this would indicate problems of a systemic nature; in order to ensure this is not the case, strategies should be implemented now.

Are there any ‘unresolved cultural issues’ that need to be addressed by the PBRF – if yes, how?

Adams suggests that the Māori research community should consider establishing a quality reference system of its own to deal with concerns about Māori methods of research and dissemination.  Whilst this may be a useful strategy to ensure fairness and equity of the system, a more fruitful approach in TEU’s view would be that TEC and TEOs undertake a cultural audit of their processes and methods as they relate to the implementation of the PBRF model.  Relying on a separate quality reference system runs the risk of allowing the Crown and TEOs to avoid their responsibilities as treaty partners, including ensuring that policy, processes and systems encompass diverse world views and reflect the principles of partnership, protection and participation that Te Tiriti o Waitangi requires of each partner.

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