Canterbury decision highlights value of independent councils

Posted By TEU on Jun 7, 2012 |


Tertiary Update Vol 15 No 19

Emma Johnston, one of the student leaders who led the You Are UC campaign to oppose the closure of Canterbury arts courses, says staff and students would never have had any success at council had it consisted only of senior management and government-appointed members, nor would there have been three hours of debate and cross-examination leading up to the vote.

“If university councils cease to be democratic, our universities will cease to be democratic, and our educational futures will be dictated by a privileged few and prone to corruption,” said Emma Johnston.

The University of Canterbury’s council voted twice to oppose the vice-chancellor’s plans to close arts courses, thus saving cultural studies and theatre and film studies. A vote to close American studies only passed after the chancellor used his casting vote to split a voting deadlock. In each instance, the four staff representatives on council consistently opposed the closures, thus saving jobs and learning opportunities for many staff and students.

The votes highlighted the important independent role staff, as stakeholders in their university, can play on councils. The minister of tertiary education, Steven Joyce, has recently said he intends to reform university councils, and that he believes they are large and unwieldy. TEU is lobbying the minister to ensure university councils retain staff and student representation and retain their independence from government.

TEU is also fighting, through the Employment Relations Authority, Canterbury University council’s decision to close two other courses, American studies and an operations research programme in Management Science. The closures will affect seven full time-equivalent staff and 154 full time-equivalent students.

The Press reports TEU’s claim to the authority accuses the vice-chancellor of failing to follow procedures set out in the collective agreement when proposing to disestablish the courses.

Mediation between the parties failed last month and the university applied to have the matter heard by the Employment Court. A hearing date has yet to be set.

TEU organiser Gabrielle Moore said she hoped the court would decide the university was in breach of procedure, causing it to overturn the closure decisions.

Also in Tertiary Update this week

  1. Allowance cuts spark anger and arrests
  2. Austerity causing global education crisis
  3. TEU joins campaign to oppose class size rise
  4. Otago VC says academics’ community service stable or growing
  5. The youth unemployment crisis: is there a skills mismatch?

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