“The minister has been keen on turning universities into businesses with no links to their communities for some time now,” said TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs last week when the government proposed its new Tertiary Education Strategy (TES).
The new strategy sets the framework for tertiary education for the coming five years, and is open for consultation for six weeks. Sharn Riggs says that the strategy focuses predominantly on the business and economic advantages of skills acquisition and the economic benefits of a tertiary education to the individual and the country.
“The Minister’s speech to tertiary education leaders mentioned the word ‘society’ just once. Tertiary education has many benefits, not just the economic ones and this has to be factored into any strategy if it is to be successful”.
The strategy lists six priorities for the next five years including delivering skills to industry, getting at-risk, young people into a career, boosting achievement for Māori and Pasifika, improving adult literacy and numeracy, strengthening research based institutions and growing international linkages.
“The priorities that the minister wants to measure, report on and reward (or punish), are important but his focus is too narrow,” said Sharn Riggs. “We want a tertiary education sector that supports industry with high quality teaching and research, but that is not the only thing tertiary education is for. Tertiary education should be a treasure for all our communities, not simply a subsidy for businesses that have failed to invest in skills training or research and development.”
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