Staff representation on councils of tertiary education institutions – TEU policy

Posted By TEU on Oct 29, 2011 |


Tertiary education is part of our public/social infrastructure. It provides opportunities and education for all who are no longer in compulsory education. It also provides skills and education to support our economy and our communities. By investing in tertiary education we give our whole country opportunities, not just those who study. Tertiary education also provides opportunities for research development and critical thinking that contribute to our understanding of current issues and to finding solutions to future challenges.

As the Tertiary Education Strategy 2010-2015 notes, higher education levels have been linked to better general well-being, better health and greater social mobility. Tertiary-educated people are more involved in the community and are more likely to vote and stand for public office. Tertiary education promotes debate, democracy, culture and expression.

For Māori the opportunity to access tertiary education through a well-funded and accessible public system is one way by which individuals and their whānau, hapū and iwi can realise their development aspirations, as well as contribute to their communities, society and the economy.


The TEU recognises that councils govern tertiary education institutions. Their policy making, however, impacts on all those who work in these institutions and has a significant influence on the morale and working conditions of all employees. It is important, therefore, that the distinctive expertise, experience and commitment of both academic and general staff should be available on councils.

Significant academic and general staff representation on councils is essential if the council is to be properly and adequately informed. A council which merely replicates the management structure of the institution is ill-equipped to represent the institution and its communities.

The principle of collegiality in governance

The principles of collegiality in tertiary education institution governance (which in the New Zealand context include universities, institutes of technology/polytechnics and wānanga) are recognised internationally in statements such as the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the status of higher education teaching personal (Paris, November 1997). The TEU believes that that the principles of collegiality in regards to participation in governance include academic freedom, shared responsibility, participation of all concerned in internal decision-making structures and practices and the development of consultative mechanisms. Collegial decision-making should encompass decisions regarding the administration and determination of tertiary education sector policies, curricula, research, extension work, the allocation of resources, and other related activities, in order to improve academic excellence and quality for the benefit of society at large.

The objectives of collegiality, co-operation and participation can best be attained by providing for the direct election of staff representatives from employee constituencies. The TEU therefore supports a council size that allows diverse representation and flexibility for a range of tertiary education institutions – small, large and those that are geographically dispersed. In supporting a representative model for councils, the TEU therefore rejects the model for institute of technology/polytechnic council composition implemented with the legislating of the Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Act 2009.

Council effectiveness

The TEU supports improvements to the operation of councils via the induction and on-going training of council members; the development of codes of practice for councils; and, mechanisms to improve the accountability of representatives to constituent groups.

Passed by Council, Oct 2011

Policy review date: 15 October 2013

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