Tertiary education is part of our public/social infrastructure. It provides opportunities and education for all who are no longer in compulsory education. It also provides skills and education to support our economy and our communities. By investing in tertiary education we give our whole country opportunities, not just those who study. Tertiary education also provides opportunities for research development and critical thinking that contribute to our understanding of current issues and to finding solutions to future challenges.
As the Tertiary Education Strategy 2010-2015 notes, higher education levels have been linked to better general well-being, better health and greater social mobility. Tertiary-educated people are more involved in the community and are more likely to vote and stand for public office. Tertiary education promotes debate, democracy, culture and expression.
For Māori the opportunity to access tertiary education through a well-funded and accessible public system is one way by which individuals and their whānau, hapū and iwi can realise their development aspirations, as well as contribute to their communities, society and the economy.
Access to quality education at all levels is an essential element for the achievement of social justice and a sustainable and high-performing economy. The TEU therefore supports open access to tertiary education opportunities in a sector that is adequately funded to support the learning needs of a diverse student population.
Principles of equitable access
The TEU believes that policy addressing equity of access to tertiary education should be based on the principles below.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi rights and responsibilities
In order to advance implementation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi rights and responsibilities, the government and its agents (in this instance TEIs) have a responsibility to ensure that tertiary education policies actively support the participation and retention of Māori learners.
Educational opportunities beyond the compulsory sector must be available to all citizens and permanent residents throughout their adult lives. The government, communities, and tertiary education institutions should strive to minimise barriers to participation in lifelong education, and must take particular steps to ensure access for those groups that are currently under-represented in the tertiary education sector.
Fairness, equity and transparency
Requirements for entry to any type of tertiary education institution and any specific programme must be stated in ways which are equitable, non-discriminatory, and publicly-available.
Entry requirements should be established and modified only after appropriate and public consultation, and be relevant to predicting success in the type of education provided by that type of institution.
Access to tertiary education
As a broad principle, TEU supports Education International’s position that “Access to higher education should be available to all those who meet relevant entry criteria, and should not be limited by financial means or social origins of potential students. Ideally this means that higher education should be free of fees and charges.” Education has an important public good function, because our society, economy and communities benefit from our investment in education. The TEU therefore advocates for an open tertiary education system, where access for individual students is not limited by their ability to pay or any other socio-economic factors.
Entry qualifications based on secondary school achievement should be consistent with the principle of fairness, equity and transparency. Those over the age of 20 and otherwise lacking entry qualifications should have the right of entry into a range of undergraduate courses/qualifications at each TEI, subject only to their having demonstrated that they have a reasonable expectation of success.
Specific entry requirements for those who are neither NZ citizens/residents may be specified, consistent with the principles of (1) open entry, (2) fairness, equity and transparency, and (3) due process.
A decision to admit a student to an educational institution imposes an obligation on that institution to provide support for teaching and learning by that student, to an extent and degree determined by the capacity of the student to meet the standards required by the tertiary education institution which has admitted them, and with particular regard to their previous learning experiences.
Learning pathways should be articulated and recognised: Each tertiary education institution should (a) clearly articulate how its courses relate to courses provided by other tertiary educational institutions, and (b) have consistent policies and practices for the recognition of prior learning experiences.
No person should be denied entry to an institution or have their enrolment terminated for academic reasons without first having the reasons for their exclusion clearly specified, their rights of appeal explained, and opportunity given for any appeal to be lodged.
Access to financial support
The TEU will advocate for the government to put in place policies that provide realistic financial support which allows all students to engage in tertiary education in a learning environment that best suits them. This would include policies on the provision of student allowances for all students, independent of their whānau/family financial circumstances.