TEU submission on directions for education renewal in greater Christchurch

Posted By TEU on May 31, 2012 |


Submission of the Tertiary Education Union on Shaping Education Te Tāreinga Mātauranga

Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch

May 2012

For further information please contact:

Phil Dodds
TEU Organiser Christchurch Office
Ph: 03 3642768
027 4499422
phil.dodds@teu.ac.nz

Introduction

The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa (TEU) welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Shaping Education Te Tāreinga Mātauranga Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch.  As the largest union and professional association representing staff in the tertiary education sector (in universities, institutes of technology/polytechnics, wānanga, private training establishments, OTEPs and REAPs), we have a significant number of members who work as academic and support staff in the Canterbury region, and who therefore have an interest in the content of this document.  As well, our members in other parts of the country maintain a collegial and professional interest in the decisions made to support the Canterbury region’s educational recovery from the devastation of the earthquakes

Because of the limited timeframe within which organisations are expected to respond to the draft proposals, TEU has only been able to conduct limited consultation with members, however our submission is also informed by the policies adopted by members, either at our annual conference or by council.

The TEU has adopted the following policy statements in regard to tertiary education:

  1. Public tertiary education
  2. Equitable access to tertiary education
  3. Funding of tertiary education

These three policies outline key principles that underpin how the union works in the sector, and how we represent our members’ interests.  A core belief that is integrated through our policies and the work we undertake in the sector is that tertiary education is a public good and should therefore be supported through public investment.  This is captured in the preamble to the three policies:

“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.”

Shaping Education Te Tāreinga Mātauranga – Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch.

The difficulties associated with responding to this document are:

  1. The other expectations of the Minister of Tertiary Education for local tertiary providers;
  2. The lack of a completed overview of the shape of Christchurch, where populations will flow to and from where;
  3. The uncertainty of where and how the (greater Christchurch) population will rebuild;
  4. The uncertainties associated with individual family finances including insurance payouts;
  5. The proposed changes to university councils; and
  6. The uncertainty of yet unpublished proposed changes to compulsory school structures e.g. boards of trustees.

Why an education renewal programme?

There is no disagreement with the majority of what is being described in this section.  There is however a larger context in which these comments must be debated:

  1. the economic recovery of the country and more particularly the Canterbury region; and
  2. preventing/stopping the “brain drain” to Australia and other parts of the world. [Anecdotally, many families are permanently losing at least one member of their household to better paying jobs in other parts of the world – particularly Australia.]

Improving outcomes with and for Māori

As a society we are collectively responsible for educational outcomes for all learners.  The fact that Māori learners have educational outcomes far below their non-Māori counterparts is a responsibility for the whole community.  We welcome the pivotal role that Ngai Tahu will play in progressing the goals contained in this section.  However this needs to be supported with a strong commitment and defined action-plan that all education providers feel ownership for.  Additionally, the educational response for Māori learners must be coupled with a broader strategy that addresses any other socio-economic factors that may block learner success.

Goals, proposals, principles, leadership

Overall goals

The overall goals in this section are encompassing and appropriate.  However as is so often the case, the success of them will lie in the extent to which government funding and policies supports these.

It would be hard to argue with the goals outlined for the post-compulsory sector.  We would add however, that tertiary education helps lead social as well as economic recovery.  It was evident throughout this period that educators acted as first response workers, supporting families and children and young people, and delivered their education needs, without any palpable detriment to their educational achievements in 2011. Education employees worked tirelessly within the parameters of the socio-economic impact of the earthquakes, the aftershocks, and the psychological effects of “living in the ruins” of what has been before, a triple whammy. Like many other large cities in New Zealand, Christchurch has significant socio-economic disparities within its communities – these existed prior to the earthquakes, and have continued in many cases in a more extreme form since the major ‘quakes of September 2010 and February 2011.  The speed with which socio-economic statistics dropped for large sections of the community serves to highlight the vulnerability of a very significant percentage of the population.  A co-ordinated approach between the education sector and other sectors is crucial if there is any hope of eliminating these disparities.

Thus, in this transition from ‘living in the ruins’, and coping with the new “normal” in every day and working life, the place of the community school, high school, and tertiary institutions as havens, sanctuaries, familiar safe and known places should not be underestimated. Our society has evolved from being administered by Education Boards and Councils to politically appointed or parent run institutions, where the demographics affect resourcing. This has taken over 20 years, and the model is still evolving. In tertiary, education became a quasi-social good, with the commodification of courses, competition among institutions, marketing within and between them, research funding becoming contestable through PBRF, and employability a clearly sought outcome for students and parents. Employers have wanted credible, ‘work ready’ new employees. The government want a positive return on its investment in tertiary education. Similar forces affect early childhood.

The other point to note is that the Christchurch region needs certainty within which to make these goals happen, and that certainty must come from local and national government.  For example, it is difficult to imagine businesses committing to a return (to a CBD or to where they came from) because of the alternative accommodations that have already been established for significant periods of time in the suburbs.  No business will want to be the first to say “We will return to High St” until the larger picture is known.

Post-compulsory education

The Minister for Tertiary Education has made it clear that the local publicly funded organisations must look for opportunities of collaboration wherever possible.  It is difficult to imagine how much more collaborative the major providers could be.  Each TEI in the greater Christchurch region has their own specialty: Lincoln University – land-based education opportunities; Canterbury University – degree and post-graduate level opportunities; Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology – certificate, diploma and applied/vocational degree programmes; Otago University Christchurch Medical School – specialized medical programme opportunities.  Certainly we would support a focus that ensures clear vocational and academic pathways are available to learners – which may be between providers or within a particular institution.

However if the government and the region wishes providers to work more collaboratively together, then the funding models it implements must reflect this.  The current trend of introducing performance-based funding models within the sector does not encourage collaborative behavior – in fact quite the reverse.  Goals and ideals need to be pragmatically supported by funding and policy frameworks that allow them to be successfully implemented in such a way that the guiding principles of equitable access and so forth are also maintained.  Current funding and policy frameworks are inadequate to meet these goals.

International students

In relation to goals for international students, it is hard to imagine that there will be a return to the numbers of international students pre-September 2010.  Already we see the Saudi Government dissuading or not supporting Saudi students to return to Christchurch for study.  It would seem that New Zealand will once again be back into the 1990’s scenario that will see international students return only after foreign governments and families can be assured (99.99%) of no more earthquakes or aftershocks.  Even without the negative impacts of a natural disaster affecting international student numbers, typically overseas families look to North America, then Australia, then New Zealand when making decisions about international studies for their sons and daughters.  If New Zealand is chosen, it is more likely that international students and their families will choose regions perceived as safer – such as Auckland and Wellington.  In our view therefore, it is unwise to place too much emphasis on international students, when there is so much that needs to be put in place for domestic students, and when the pool of international students may well have permanently reduced as a result of the earthquakes.

Proposals

Because of the time limitation on responding to this document, we will focus our responses on those directly affecting the tertiary sector.  However we recognise the inter-connectedness of all parts of the education sector and regret we have not been able to give other proposal areas the reflection they deserve.

Proposal 4.1 – To explore rationalisation of tertiary provision

To be achieved by:

  • building on current collaborative activities of TEIs;
  • exploring areas of delivery overlap across tertiary providers with a view to rationalisation;
  • giving priority to government investment in facilities that will have shared use – by two or more tertiary organisations, by schools and tertiary organisations, or by educational users and the community

It is hard to see this being further from the reality when we see the new vice chancellor of Lincoln University looking to be involved with links into the Waikato and more broadly the North Island so as to (amongst other things) maximize growth as an organisation.

Whilst collaborating to ensure minimal duplication of delivery occurs, each institution will want to ensure their continuing longevity and viability through minimizing the number of course/programme closures.  Realistically, it would be more prudent of the Minister to insist that out of region provision does not continue through the withdrawal of campuses e.g. Southern Institute of Technology, Aoraki Polytechnic.  Having the EFTs count from those regional campuses transferred to the local public institution(s) e.g. CPIT, would constitute a good first step toward ensuring the ongoing viability of the local institution(s).  Exceptions might only occur when the out of region institution provides specialist programmes that local providers are unwilling to offer e.g. Tai Poutini Polytechnic scaffolding programmes.

The University of Canterbury has been very impulsive in looking to close programmes and courses as a cost-cutting measure.  The university risks losing its broad-based ability to provide degree and post-graduate programmes needed and valued by the local, national and international community, in a bid to specialize in particular areas.  Whilst specialization in some areas is often a natural development for a university, this should not be at the loss of other valuable programmes that also make a contribution to the social and economic recovery of the local community.

CPIT on the other hand has made a bold decision to retain its capability.  That capability is in the form of retaining staff wherever possible so that they can immediately return to course offerings that enhance the region’s rebuild and growth.

The last proposal of shared use, in our view would be fraught with difficulty.  Whilst we might agree that a lot of capital resource is tied up in the assets associated with each institution, government also has a social responsibility to ensure that families and society co-exist in social harmony and individuals within the society are able to have a family life and work-life balance.  Ferrying students across a crumbled city at all hours of the day and night does not bode well for meeting that social responsibility. Parents have loudly complained about the extra costs, hours and disruption to their family life with the double up of campuses – particularly for secondary schooling during 2011.  If however a shared-use model occurred locally, it could prove useful, as long as the needs of learners and staff in the host institution had first priority.

Proposal 4.2 – To ensure sustainability of provision

To be achieved by:

  • reorganising the network and creating efficiency through organisational change;
  • supporting and strengthening TEIs to build on areas of strength that are economically important such as engineering and agriculture;
  • aligning provision and wider research and innovation activities with regional and national economic needs;
  • collaborating and consolidating to achieve economies of scale, drive innovation, and obtain value for new investment;
  • promoting private sector investment in shared capital facilities for private training establishments;
  • bringing enrolments progressively back to sustainable levels.

See also comments above in proposal 4.1.

All our major public providers are in an almost constant state of change and re-evaluation of the services they provide.  Unfortunately our experience has shown that these proposals tend to be driven by pure economic decisions, rather than a commitment to providing the best learning, teaching and research environment for students and staff.  For that reason, we could only view the first bullet point of 4.2 with caution at best.

The second bullet point also causes us some concern.  Whilst (as we noted above) providers may naturally develop areas of specialisation, we fear that in this case (based on proposals currently in discussion at the University of Canterbury) specialization means the loss of many other important programmes for the ongoing renewal of the Canterbury region.  For example, earlier in the document the writers note the sharp decline in already unfavourable socio-economic statistics since the earthquakes.  How will local tertiary providers support the needs of the community in this respect?  Additionally, narrowing the focus of a major tertiary provider into one or two current growth areas makes it vulnerable to social and economic changes that may hit these specialized areas in the future.

In terms of aligning provision, research and innovation activities with local and national economic needs, we would add ‘social need’ to this.  We would also note that this must occur in the context of the academic freedom of staff in terms of being able to freely pursue ideas and interests that may not necessarily align with stated goals of government.

Our comments previously on collaboration between providers stand for bullet point four also.

To promote private sector investment (particularly in tertiary education in the form of private training providers) the government needs to ensure that the employment relationships that are then developed mirror those in the public sector as minimum terms and conditions.  Our experience so far since the mid-1990’s is that PTEs only survive by providing minimum standards of employment for employees.

Proposal 4.3 – To put in place co-ordinated leadership of the post-compulsory education system

To be achieved by:

  • facilitating systems/network thinking by schools and tertiary providers, with a focus on longer-term opportunities;
  • linking university provision more closely to economic development opportunities;
  • bringing together education leaders and business – building on Youth Futures Canterbury and the Canterbury Tertiary Alliance to align planning and improve management of secondary/tertiary transitions.

We support initiatives that result in clearer learning pathways for students transitioning from secondary to tertiary education.  We also support initiatives that will contribute to a co-ordinated and cross sector approach that will effectively respond to the economic and social needs of communities.  For example, fostering research relationships between local providers and local communities, improving connections between local industry/employers and local providers, stronger connections between the education sector and other sectors (for example health, housing, and welfare).

We are concerned by the second bullet point – connecting university provision more closely to economic development opportunities.  Whilst universities (and other tertiary providers) should be able to identify linkages to economic development opportunities, their role is far wider than this – the bullet point suggests a narrowing in focus which could result in the loss of other important functions.

The last bullet point is a valid element of a cohesive strategy for the Canterbury region, however again we are concerned that the other roles for tertiary providers will become lost in an exclusive economic focus.

Proposal 4.4 – To improve secondary-to-tertiary and education-to-work transitions

To be achieved by:

  • providing additional Youth Guarantee places, such as in vocational and trades skills to strengthen employment outcomes;
  • improving careers advice and careers management;
  • building on the new youth services plans under development by the Ministry of Social Development;
  • employers committing to further education and training of the young people they employ;
  • encouraging more work-integrated learning;
  • encouraging employers to commit to helping young people get training.

Already CPIT is operating in conjunction with local secondary providers the Canterbury Tertiary College.  This appears to be working well.  Teaching across a different range of student age groups and abilities has created some challenges for our members who may not have teacher registration and qualifications.  How will these staff be supported to ensure their professional accreditation meets requirements for different courses and student groups?

Providing more Youth Guarantee Places is an ideal worth pursuing.  It should not however be at the expense of other student places within the TEI.  If the need is there, government needs to fund the places realistically.

Other ideas as proposed are supported as long as adequate funding is provided to enable them to occur.

Proposal 4.5 – To continue catering for priority groups

This would be achieved through:

  • promoting multiple pathways into tertiary education;
  • improving mentoring and support for learners;
  • providing better support in schools and tertiary institutions for those who are marginalised to enter into tertiary study or employment;
  • supporting programmes for young Māori in education developed by Ngāi Tahu in collaboration with education providers.

We agree with the elements identified however would also add that these must be adequately funded and that funding must not be taken from other parts of the tertiary education Budget to achieve these goals.

Proposal 4.6 – To build on existing tertiary initiatives to meet the vocational and economic priorities of Canterbury

To be achieved by:

  •  increasing trades training in polytechnics, both within the region and in the rest of New Zealand, to ensure that there are people with the skills to contribute to the rebuild of Christchurch;
  • polytechnics and industry training organisations collaborating to increase the number of people with the skills needed in the region;
  • tertiary education institutions, the Canterbury Development Corporation and businesses working together more closely to improve their understanding of each other’s needs and ensure that the region has access to more graduates with the necessary skills;
  • Crown research institutes, universities and business collaborating to align skills and innovation development with the economic priorities of Canterbury and New Zealand.

This particular area is where it seems there is a huge gain to be made.  The links between ITOs and the ITPs appears to have taken a step sideways, where in some areas each seems to be competing with the other.  This is wasteful and unproductive.  We therefore support initiatives that will encourage greater collaboration between ITPs and ITOs, and that will assist in implementing an encompassing plan for education in the Canterbury region.

Each institution has typically developed their own stair casing opportunities. Some have developed them in collaboration with other providers.  This needs to be further encouraged to provide a seamless tertiary experience.

Summary

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the consultation document.  Foremost for the TEU is ensuring that the plan that is ultimately agreed upon is a broad-based approach that looks beyond solely economic opportunities or solutions, and seeks to create a strategy that addresses social, cultural, environmental and economic issues in an inclusive manner and that ensures each person is able to achieve to their potential and contribute to their community.

This period of recovery is not a germane time to rationalise educational delivery. Nor is it a time to close familiar places. Children need spaces to be children, just as young people need community contexts to be themselves. ITPs and Universities need to continue to be places of research and applied research, collaboratively, through existing and evolving networks, as well as places where young adults and mature students alike explore new fields of employment and knowledge. To do this on less student allowance income, repaying loans earlier, and having less time in which to complete qualifications is already challenging tertiary students, as well as responding to market force rentals. While the tide may appear to be out, and it may stay out for some time, it is not predictable how communities will respond and recover.

Given that many of those who stay are poorer, with fewer choices, or who are trapped by financial circumstances, then supporting existing educational structures through this period of transition seems cost effective, compassionate and pragmatic. Further, retaining experienced teachers to work alongside each other in teams can assist with the burden of fatigue that is being experienced throughout the educational and helping professions.

In other words, while some restructuring of the educational delivery may be necessary in the long term, to do so now (without supporting research) will be counterproductive to recovery. Research that monitors demographic changes and qualitative effects of disaster recovery can generate meaning and purpose for those affected, as we tell our stories, and rebuild our lives, through family, work and community. Education underpins that; education can facilitate that; and education can act as a stabilising effect for Canterbury, Christchurch, and towns, villages and settlements in between.

We also support the submissions as provided by our colleagues in the primary and secondary education sectors – NZEI and PPTA as well as those submitted by Unions Canterbury and the NZCTU.

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