Students and staff hit hardest by constant upheaval

Posted By TEU on Oct 19, 2017 | 1 comment

Tertiary Update – Vol 20 No 31

Tertiary education institutions across New Zealand are restructuring how courses and services are delivered, causing unnecessary stress and uncertainty for thousands of staff and students.

Eleven universities, polytechnics and wānanga have notified staff of their intention to restructure parts of the institution, with cuts and changes to courses, student support services and jobs likely.

Many have cited funding uncertainty and low student enrolments as a primary reason for the restructures.

Changes are planned at the University of Canterbury, Victoria University of Wellington, the Ara Institute of Canterbury, the Wellington Institute of Technology, Whitiriea, the University of Otago, University of Waikato, Massey University, Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, the Universal College of Learning and the Manukau Institute of Technology.

In every case, staff must be closely involved in decisions about the future of their workplaces, as their conditions of work impact directly on students’ conditions of learning.

However, as the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) revealed earlier in the year, staff voice in decision-making and communication with management has deteriorated over the past ten years, contributing further to the stress and anxiety that inevitably results from constant disruption to the workplace.

A review of the restructuring proposals suggests that underfunding is one of the main drivers of the perpetual upheaval now an all too common feature of studying and working in tertiary education.

Some institutions cited the government’s insistence on cutting an institution’s funding when it does not meet targets, as well as a lack of long-term planning, as a primary reason for the latest round of disruption.

Funding for the forthcoming academic year is often capped at a rate based on whether targets are met from the previous year, leading to the absurd situation where an institution can lose funding and find it harder to meet targets the following year.

What results is the continuous financial and managerial pressures, staff redundancies, increased staff:student ratios, insecurity for staff and students, cost cutting and micromanagement.

“National’s approach to tertiary education has been to push too many public institutions down a funding spiral, rather than put in place a long-term plan for the sector that guarantees all New Zealanders access to quality public education,” Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU), said.

Domestic enrolments have declined, according to government figures, but the answer is not to cut funding so the situation becomes even harder to turn around. Doing so also increases the reliance of institutions on international, higher fee-paying students.

“The new government must put an end to the short-sightedness of the last nine years and put in place a long-term funding plan that ensures delivery of broad-based, publicly-funded programmes that meet community, iwi and hapū, business, industry and service provider needs,” Grey said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Telford celebrate takeover
  2. Accreditation withdrawn from yet another for-profit provider
  3. Happy Labour Day

Other news

The University of Auckland has approved a 2 per cent increase in course fees – NZ Herald

The Auckland University of Technology Council has also confirmed that for 2018, tuition fees will increase by 2 per cent – AUT

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology has introduced its first ever Master’s Degree, a Master of Applied Management – NMIT

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa are hosting a two-day symposium on Māori perspectives of conflict – TWWA

Pasifika students associations at the University of Auckland recently celebrated their 20th anniversary – Radio 531

The Eastern Institute of Technology and the University of Waikato have announced have signed a signed a Deed of Cooperation to work more closely on joint research and study initiatives – Voxy

Dr. Stuart Middleton, specialist adviser to the chief executive at Manukau Institute of Technology, said “seamless pathways” were needed between school, tertiary training and work – NZ Herald

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