Minister admits National’s tertiary reforms “risk” reducing education quality

Posted By TEU on Mar 30, 2017 | 2 comments

Tertiary Update Vol 20 No 11

National knows its tertiary education reforms risk lowering standards, Tertiary Education Minister, Paul Goldsmith admitted, as evidence mounts of the pressure staff are under to pass students.

Goldsmith’s admission comes after staff at tertiary education institutions started to come forward to share their experiences of how National’s perpetual underfunding of the sector and failed reforms have put them under increasing pressure to pass students and dedicate less time to teaching.

Results from a TEU survey published on Wednesday showed that almost two-thirds of respondents felt pressured to pass students to meet government targets; with over half saying the system introduced by National forced them to spend less time on teaching.

Staff told the New Zealand Herald and Radio New Zealand they have seen marks awarded to failed students, been ordered to re-mark exams more leniently, told to ignore cheating and told to apply lower standards to foreign students.

“Staff do push back against this sort of pressure,” Sandra Grey, TEU national president, “but they do so at huge personal cost.”

Some polytechnic staff also reported to the TEU that Chief Executives are telling colleagues that the loss of funding under National is hitting their institutions hard, leading to further pressure to meet targets.

Paul Goldsmith, acknowledged to Newstalk ZB that National’s tertiary education reforms “risked” lowering standards in the sector.

The Minister’s admission raises serious concerns about whether he has assessed the impact on the sector of a new law that will allow public funds to be used to subsidise private providers, or whether he is pressing ahead knowing full well that it risks reducing educational quality.

“If National is knowingly taking risks with education standards then clearly they cannot be trusted to run tertiary education,” Sandra Grey, TEU national president, said.

“The Minister should carry out a full assessment of the impact his reforms are having on the sector, before proceeding with any further changes that could deepen the widespread problems our survey finds.”

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is inviting staff that have been put under pressure to amend grades to contact them so assessment practices can be investigated.

The TEU is also asking staff to come forward to share their experiences by calling 0800 278 348.

NZQA’s invitation followed after Chair of Universities New Zealand and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, once again showed an unwillingness to listen to the experiences of staff.

In a statement, McCutcheon said universities have not relaxed standards. But his comments flagrantly misrepresent the mounting evidence that National has introduced a system that leads staff to being bullied into passing students.

“Why would someone that chairs an organisation responsible for ensuring quality education be so willing to distort what staff are telling us is their experience of working in the sector.

“We did not say staff were changing grades, but that they felt under enormous pressure to do so, which is leading to intense worry and huge personal strain. That Professor McCutcheon chooses to ignore this evidence says a huge amount about his priorities,” Grey said.

Grey added that “it is about time the leaders of our tertiary education institutions and Paul Goldsmith acknowledge what is happening and work with staff to resolve the problems the National government has caused.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Waikato music students campaign to save university jobs
  2. Tai Poutini opens public debate about its future
  3. Whānau support crucial to success of Māori university graduates, study finds
  4. Iowa State shows interference from legislators does not advance academic freedom

Other news

The Tertiary Education Commission has released supplementary plan guidance for Industry Training Organisations for 2018-2020 – TEC

Physical education alumni has raised concerns about pending staff cuts from the Physical Education Department and changes to the curriculum and degree structure – Critic

University of Otago and University of Auckland have proposed to set up a national School of Rural Health in association with the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network – UoA

The Resident Doctors’ Association raises questions about the proposal for a new medical school at the University of Waikato – RDA

Waikato Institute of Technology has partnered with Ngati Hei Trust to open a satellite campus in Whitianga – Voxy

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is consulting on proposals to publish statutory actions information on their website – NZQA

Pundit published a blog post by economist Brian Easton looking at the QS rankings by subject and how New Zealand university departments rank internationally – Pundit

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