Tertiary education’s productivity review needs clearer goal

Posted By TEU on Dec 17, 2015 |

Next year’s Productivity Commission review into tertiary education needs to be clear about what it wants before it starts, says TEU president Sandra Grey.

The commission needs to be aware that terms like productivity, innovation and internationalisation risk becoming buzzwords devoid of any sensible meaning if the commission does not define them clearly before it begins its investigation.

When the finance minister Bill English and the tertiary education minister Steven Joyce announced the commission’s review they talked of productivity, technology, innovation and internationalisation.

Grey says innovation simply means to make changes to something.

“You can have good and bad innovation.  Innovation is not a goal in itself but a way of achieving your goal.

Likewise, Grey says, productivity is the process of making things (or sometimes it is defined as the speed with which you make things). Again it is not a goal in itself but a way of getting to a goal.

Technology is the tools or resources we create using our scientific knowledge.

Grey says it is possible that good tertiary education will occasionally need to reject some innovative new ideas in favour of old ones that are better suited to the problems we face.

“For instance academic research identified that riparian planting rather than innovative new use of the technologies of fertilizers was the way to make our farms less productive in the short-term but more sustainable and enduring in the long-term.”

“We need to describe clearly what our long-term goal is so we can identify what technology we need, when we need to be productive, and when we need to be innovative.”

“Goals of innovation and productivity for their own sake are doomed to failure.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Treasury forecasts cuts next year
  2. Reporting on job outcomes for students
  3. $15 billion student debt
  4. Ten most popular Tertiary Update stories of 2015
  5. Ten of our favourite TEU photos for 2015

Other news

Everyone says it’s a good thing and it’s vital for the economy. But – and there is always a but, it’s still the academic pathway that has the higher status. As the saying goes, vocational education is a great thing… for other people’s children – BBC

The Government has decided to continue funding the Pasifika Education Centre in Auckland. It was reported in August that the Tertiary Education Commission had told the centre it didn’t qualify for the full amount it had applied for. Ministers now say that despite that, it will be given $763,000 to keep it going for a year – 3News

Documents obtained by the Labour Party under the Official Information Act show the ministry plans to privatise its student assessment tool, e-asttle, despite concerns about bad publicity. – Stuff

Five high-risk tertiary institutions are just the tip of the iceberg that is threatening the sector. There are nine more tertiary institutions on close watch, and two under investigation for potential fraud – Labour’s Associate Education (Tertiary) spokesperson David Cunliffe.

Coming soon to your campus library? Reading desks where you can bike while studying – Inside Higher Education

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