You may remember that Tertiary Update has covered an ongoing written debate in parliament between Labour’s tertiary education spokesperson David Cunliffe and the tertiary education minister Steven Joyce over what an appropriate level of pay is for academic staff at wānanga, polytechnics and universities.
When we last left the story two weeks ago we were awaiting Joyce’s answer to the questions what is the relationship between the amount of government funding of the tertiary sector and the ability of tertiary institutions to pay appropriate levels of staff pay, if any, and what he meant by “appropriate”, in dollar terms?
Since then, Joyce has responded to both questions.
In answering the first question he said:
“As one of the sources of income for tertiary institutions, government funding has an impact on decisions made by institutions relating to their obligations and business needs, as consistent with their status under Sections 160 and 161 of the Education Act 1989 as autonomous institutions with the independence and freedom to make academic, operational and management decisions consistent with the services they provide.
And he answered the second question saying:
“Under Sections 160 and 161 of the Education Act 1989 tertiary institutions are autonomous institutions with the independence and freedom to make academic, operational and management decisions consistent with their obligations and business needs and with the services they provide. As such, appropriate pay for staff is a matter for each institution.”
You may feel at this juncture that we are going around in circles.
So, to clarify, the government is the most significant funder of public tertiary institutions, and that funding affects how much institutions can pay staff. But the minister appears to have no opinion on what an appropriate amount is to pay those staff, despite pay being directly linked to the amount of funding he provides to institutions, and the quality of those institutions being directly linked to the quality of the staff they are able to recruit and retain.
We can assume from the parliamentary answers to date that this year’s budget, as with previous year’s budgets, will not take into account the need to pay staff appropriately because the minister sees academic pay as an issue of institutional autonomy rather than of government under-funding.