1,600 to 1: Public, experts blast Joyce’s council changes

Posted By TEU on Jul 17, 2014 |

Tertiary Update Vol 17 No 23

Members of the public and education professionals came out swinging against changes to the controversial bill which removes guaranteed staff and student representation from the country’s 11 university and wananga councils, a new select committee report reveals.

The report from the Education and Science Select committee, which has been hearing submissions on the government’s Education Amendment Bill (No 2), shows the changes were opposed by every university submitter, including students’ unions, staff unions, several vice-chancellors and the management body Universities NZ.

Tertiary education minister Steven Joyce says the changes are designed to lift the performance of universities and wananga, and allow them “to respond quickly and effectively to the various strategic challenges facing the tertiary education sector.”

However, the report shows only a single submitter said cutting council sizes would deliver improved performance.

Instead, tabled evidence from the University of Auckland to the select committee showed a similar reduction in governance body size introduced to polytechnics by the government had actually led to declined performance.

Despite stiff opposition to the bill, National had its MPs use their majority to vote up the bill without amendment, a move that the national students’ union president Dan Haines says ignores sector, -and the facts:

“Of the 1,568 individual submissions and 298 oral submissions only one supported these widely condemned reforms. NZUSA believes that these changes are wrong headed and unnecessary.”

“The changes are universally opposed by the sector not least because the proposed changes have no evidence to support them, [but also because they] will have wide-ranging and adverse consequences”

Those consequences included reduced academic freedom and autonomy, and greater risk to the institutions, says TEU national president Lesley Francey.

“Increasing the proportion of government representatives will give politicians undue influence over the nation’s universities and wānanga.”

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of the Minister stacking councils with his corporate friends. Our tertiary education institutions are supposed to be free from political pressure. These changes undermine independent universities and wananga”
“The role of universities is as the critic and conscience of society, not as lapdogs of  the Beehive.”

Steven Joyce has hit back the 1,600 submitters who opposed the bill in a statementon Wednesday, saying the changes would “not affect institutional autonomy or academic freedom” or “lead to more Ministerial control over councils as some submitters claimed.”

Lesley Francey is urging the minister to listen to the sector before letting the bill go further.

“We’re calling for the Minister to dump his unpopular plans to stack councils with bean counters and in the place of staff, and instead support collaborative campus democracy. The evidence shows that listening to student and staff voices actually works, his changes do not.”


Also in Tertiary Update this week:

1. UCOL settlement proves power of industrial action

2. Student poverty to be focus if Labour-Greens win

3. Poll disaster: Senior Oz ministers would lose seats on tertiary education cuts – a warning for National?

4. Victoria unveils plans for $100m campus upgrade, doubling student numbers

Other news:

Waikato and BOP Polytechnic to open new Tauranga campus – Scoop.co.nz

Food prices up, wages stale – Stuff.co.nz

Minimum wages have no impact on job losses – Melbourne Age

Can a university transform a city? – Politico

Labour floats opening state-run ECE centres – Radio New Zealand

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