MPs open hearings on new law that puts public tertiary education at risk

Posted By TEU on Jun 29, 2017 | 2 comments

Tertiary Update Vol 20 No 21

A committee of MPs has started detailed scrutiny of a proposed law change that could see vast sums of public money being transferred away from public tertiary institutions to private providers.

The law change would give private tertiary companies, who are more concerned with profit than providing quality education, equal funding to universities, polytechnics and wānanga.

The Education and Science Select Committee is tasked with examining these proposals in detail and making recommendations for amendment.

Hearings started on Wednesday after more than 2,000 public submissions called on MPs to reject what is widely seen as a rushed attempt by National to change the law before the election.

Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said the number of submissions the Committee had received showed there was huge support for keeping tertiary education public and local.

“It’s a lot more attention than most of the legislation passing through Parliament attracts, and a clear signal to our MPs that this Bill matters to people who care about our education system,” Grey said.

Chair of the Committee, Jian Yang, a National list MP based in Auckland and a former lecturer at the University of Auckland, opened the hearings by inviting by a number of staff working in the sector to give evidence.

Tina Smith, a Senior Lecturer in Nursing at the Universal College of Learning, Bronwyn Wood, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Victoria University, and Miriam Meyerhoff, Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University, gave passionate defences of the public tertiary education system, before MPs questioned representatives of Universities New Zealand.

As part of his evidence, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Chair of Universities New Zealand, warned MPs about the risks of allowing polytechnics to using the term university, which is not a change the legislation even allows.

He also got into trouble when suggesting wānanga should not be allowed to use the term ‘university’, even though, as Labour MP Adrian Rurawhe pointed out, most universities, including McCutcheon’s own University of Auckland, use the term wānanga themselves.

McCutcheon later moved to slightly safer ground, highlighting the importance of consulting Māori over universities use of the word wānanga.

Normally, Select Committees have six months to report on any new legislation, but with the election approaching there is real concern that the process will be curtailed so it can be passed before voters go to the polls.

The TEU will be working to ensure the Committee allows sufficient time to consider the concerns more than 2,000 people have raised as part of a full, open and informed debate on the risks posed by this legislation.

Hearings are expected to continue until at least the end of a July.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Long-term funding plan needed for Telford take-over
  2. Local community protests job cuts at Waikato University
  3. Council approval of Living Wage sets example for Vic VC to follow

Other news

The Ministry of Education has published four fact sheets relating to life after study for tertiary education graduates, including statistics on income, employment, rates of return, living standards and other post-study outcomes – MoE

Universities should end investments in coal, oil and gas companies, students say – The Wireless

The New Zealand Herald’s and Newstalk ZB’s Cooking The Books podcast took a one dimensional financial look at the benefits of doing a university degree – Herald

The Industry Training Federation has called for National Certificate of Educational Achievement fees to be abolished – Herald

New Zealand First restated their policy to cancel student loans for new students who stay and work in the country for five years – Stuff

Massey University’s ecentre has won a Callaghan Innovation service expansion contract to provide support to early-stage tech firms in the regions – Massey

The New Zealand Law Society has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Open Polytechnic regarding a new qualification for legal executives – Scoop

Current and former students of physical education at the University of Otago are campaigning against plans to cut 13 full-time equivalent positions from the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences – ODT

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