Could trade agreement let for-profit US universities sue NZ polytechnics?

Posted By TEU on Dec 9, 2010 |

This is the last edition of Tertiary Update for 2010.  Tertiary Update will resume again next year. Season’s greetings, and best wishes for summer, from all at the Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa.

Tertiary Update Vol 13 No 47

The government is currently negotiating, in secret with eight other countries, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). This proposed agreement will dramatically increase the ability of private foreign firms, including tertiary education providers, to sue future New Zealand governments and New Zealand public tertiary institutions.

TEU national president Dr Tom Ryan says that for-profit universities in the United States are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to increase their share of both the domestic USUS market and overseas markets.

Recently, for-profit Keiser University lodged a lawsuit against the community college Florida State College, alleging that negative public comments by staff at the college devalued Keiser’s share price and reduced its enrolments. Keiser subsequently withdrew its lawsuit after the two institutions “agreed to put their differences behind them.” Florida State College also told the media it “never intended to disparage Keiser University or its principals or to cause harm to the institution.”

“If we are not careful, foreign investment rules in the TPPA could give for-profit institutions s from the United States, or other countries, the right to sue New Zealand tertiary institutions for making it hard for them to do business here,” said Dr Ryan.

“The agreement might include rules governing the monitoring of academic quality, institutions, qualifications their staff should hold, or the content of the courses they offer. Once TPPA investment rules are set they cannot be reversed, and as Keiser University showed, for-profit institutions will use rules like these aggressively.”

NZQA has already said it is providing support as required for the TPPA negotiations as the agreement may include qualifications recognition clauses.

Inside Higher Ed notes that American for-profit universities are increasingly active outside the United States and offer many on-line degrees internationally. They are also buying or starting universities in other countries, linking with overseas institutions. For example, the University of Liverpool in the UK is the partner of Laureate Education, a large US for-profit, and works with Laureate on many on-line degrees). The US for-profits also offer many on-line degrees internationally.

For more on for-profit universities, check out Stephen Colbert’s analysis of the sector in the USA.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Otago Uni sacks people who deliver government tertiary strategy
  2. Weltec staff opposed to 55 more hours a year
  3. NZQA takes over quality assurance of polytechnics
  4. Retirement commission wants to raise retirement age

Other news

EIT chief executive Chris Collins said that, other than the positions of Tairāwhiti chief executive Judy Campbell and five members of her senior management team, there would be no more redundancies in the short term as a result of the EIT-Tairāwhiti merger. Mr Collins says he will hire extra academic staff to teach new programmes in Gisborne – Dominion Post

TEC Chief Executive Roy Sharp has announced his retirement, as of 3 April next year, the day he turns 65 – Education Directions

TEU members and staff in the library and IT at Victoria University have this week invited to complete a pay and employment equity survey. The survey is a critical element of the limited pay and employment equity (PaEE) review that the university is undertaking to determine whether women’s employment opportunities and rewards in those two areas of the university are affected by gender. The review is part of ongoing PaEE work in the sector, continuing despite the government’s closure of the PaEE unit in the Department of Labour.

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email:

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