Ministry advice may have misled minister

Posted By TEU on Mar 6, 2014 |

Tertiary Update Vol 17 No 4

The Ministry of Education must re-do its analysis of submissions on proposed changes to university and wānanga councils to make sure its advice to the minister was correct says TEU national president Lesley Francey

In its analysis of 2000 submissions on proposed changes to university and wānanga councils the ministry states that of the eight universities that submitted, ‘five somewhat or mostly support the changes outlined in the consultation document and three prefer the status quo’. The minister appeared to rely on that analysis when he told National Radio that “universities are about 50-50 in terms of what they think should happen.”

However, since then TEU obtained copies of submissions from two universities that the ministry lists as generally supporting the changes, Massey and Waikato. Both express significant opposition to the proposal to remove staff and student voices from university councils.

The Waikato submission states that staff and student perspectives on council are ‘essential’, and the Massey submission notes all the world top-ten universities (Times Higher Education) are governed by a council that includes representation from staff, students and alumni.

“Having staff and students represented on Council is critical to ensure universities retain their role in society (conscience and critic of society) and reflects what universities are at law (universities consist of ….staff and students)”

All eight vice-chancellors unanimously and publicly opposed the minister’s proposed changes through their peak body Universities New Zealand, saying they undermine the role of universities.

“The changes … are of great concern to the university sector. They remove the legal requirement for democratically elected students, staff and other representatives to sit on councils, undermining a model of governance that has worked well to reflect the broad range of voices universities represent,” said Universities NZ Chair Professor Roy Crawford.

TEU national president Lesley Francey says the minister is relying on advice that universities support his proposals, when the reality appears to be that universities are united in opposing the core principle at the heart of his changes – removing the independent voice of staff and students and giving greater control to ministerial appointees.

“The minister needs to ask his ministry to revise its analysis of the submissions on this issue and re-do its advice to him so he has a clearer picture of the widespread opposition of universities to his proposed changes.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week

  1. Other news

    After four years, the corporate deal of the century – aka the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – is still being negotiated in secret. The National Day of Action Against the TPPA on 29 March will mark the fourth anniversary and send the government a message – It’s Our Future 

    “The Tertiary Education Minister wants to cut away the independent voices on university councils. This is not an esoteric debate about good governance, though; it is a very real debate about New Zealanders’ democracy and freedom to speak up” – Lesley Francey in the Otago Daily Times

    The Māori Party is shocked and disappointed that the only Māori Centre of Research Excellence, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga has had its bid for continued funding post 2015 turned down, and say it is a significant loss to the Māori research sector – Māori Party

    “As universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it” – Noam Chomsky

    Something else began to happen around 1980. College graduation rates kept soaring for the affluent, but for those in the bottom half, a four-year degree is scarcely more attainable today than it was in the 1970s… The demise of opportunity through higher education is, fundamentally, a political failure – The New York Times

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