Parliament debates staff seats on councils

Posted By TEU on Dec 4, 2014 |

Tertiary Update Vol 17 No 42

A bill to remove democratically elected staff and student representatives from university and wānanga councils passed its second reading and committee stage in Parliament this week and is today now progressing through its third and final stage.

The Tertiary Education minister Steven Joyce acknowledged the large number of submissions on tertiary governance provisions in the bill. The select committee minority report had earlier noted that every university submitter, including students’ associations as well as staff, unions covering staff, vice-chancellors, and universities opposed the changes in the bill.

Joyce said most submitters opposed the bill for three reasons. Those reason were that the changes ‘would, firstly, negatively impact institutional autonomy and academic freedom; secondly, lead to greater ministerial control; or, thirdly, lead to the loss of student and staff voices on councils.’

Joyce rejected all three of these reasons:

“Despite claims to the contrary, the Minister will have no mechanism to instruct council members to make certain decisions, nor will the Minister, he or she, have the power to sanction council members for their governance decisions.”

He said the amendments would not affect institutional autonomy or academic freedom, as these are guaranteed by section 161 of the Education Act.

“I myself recognise the value and importance of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, which is why I am not proposing any changes to this section of the Act.”

He also argued that the amendments would not prevent institutions from having any of their stakeholders represented on the councils, saying that will be a matter for each individual institution’s constitution

“I actually think that is a grown-up approach to the institution’s governance. There is nothing in this bill that will prevent an institution from having student representatives or staff members on its council.”

However, opposition MPs rejected Joyce’s assertions.

Labour MP Megan woods said he was being somewhat disingenuous saying academic freedom is intact.

“The problem is the way in which the subsequent clauses interact with section 161 of the Act.”

Meanwhile the Green Party’s Gareth Hughes said Joyce’s record on appointments to tertiary councils was poor.

“Only five out of 30 have been women, only one out of 30 have been Māori, none out of 30 appointments have been Pasifika, and two-thirds have been chief executive officers or company directors. What we see is more corporate takeovers of our university sector.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Zero-hour agreements are extreme casualisation
  2. Few women taking up trades apprenticeships
  3. Doing something about low incomes: wages and benefits

Other news

“People are realising that under the new regime, just because they have left New Zealand, they haven’t left the debt behind,” – Steven Joyce.

The University of Waikato has appointed a new leader for its 51st year. Professor Neil Quigley will take up the role of vice-chancellor from February, replacing Professor Roy Crawford, who is retiring after 10 years in the role – Waikato Times

In Australia the Abbott government is spending $150,000 to gauge the public’s “understanding of the higher education system” – potentially setting the scene for an advertising campaign aimed at countering public concerns – The Guardian

The University of Otago is pushing hard to double international student numbers following three years of decline – The Otago Daily Times

After prolonged discussion, Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) has withdrawn from the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA). The unanimous decision follows the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) decision to also withdraw earlier this year – Critic


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