TEU submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into new models for tertiary education

Posted By TEU on May 11, 2016 | 2 comments


Executive summary

The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa represents 10,000 general and academic staff from across the New Zealand tertiary education sector working in universities, ITPs, wānanga, REAPs and private training providers.

As the professional body of the tertiary education sector we have extensive knowledge on how to achieve good quality educational outcomes for students, how to ensure innovation and creativity are at the heart of all we do, and how our sector can contribute towards productivity for well-being.

Our contribution to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry is based on research carried out through focus groups with 135 staff in the sector, and from commissioned research and members forums that we have hosted in the last five years; and set in the context of literature and research on tertiary education internationally.

The purpose of tertiary education

Before deciding on the models that should guide the sector it is important to agree on the purpose of tertiary education. TEU asserts the following are the primary objectives that should determine the broad direction of all post-compulsory education in New Zealand. We believe that tertiary education should:

  1. enhance cultural and intellectual life; develop a skilled and knowledgeable population; promote sustainable economic and social development (As per the Education Act 1989);
  2. be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms (UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 26), and ensure social mobility and the reduction of inequality;
  3. ensure the advancement of a strong Te Tiriti o Waitangi relationship; and,
  4. enable us to address, collectively, the pressing issues of our age.

These objectives must shape and guide the sector. We should respond to the ‘drivers’ identified by Cabinet and described in the issues paper in the context of these objectives.

What is working in the tertiary education sector and why?

To establish sound policies and processes to support quality tertiary education, we must first evaluate and reflect on the practices that currently support quality educational outcomes.

The focus groups and existing literature show the range of innovative and creative practices occurring in tertiary education. For example, getting classes to apply their knowledge and skills collaboratively to a real world problem on campus as part of a course assessment; the use of ‘smartphones’ in teaching biology; and using work placement to put theory into practice.

TEU members identified the following as helping them to meet the diverse needs of their students, communities, and employers:

  1. diversity of learning approaches;
  2. collaboration with colleagues and other institutions;
  3. a dedicated permanent workforce;
  4. trust and full engagement in decision-making; and
  5. a focus on the importance of life-long learning.

However, the focus group participants noted repeatedly that current policies and processes stifle many of these best practice approaches. Often best practice was happening despite the structures surrounding tertiary education staff and students. This makes it important to examine the impediments to innovation and creativity and to achieving the broad outcomes needed from the tertiary education sector.

What is not working in the tertiary education sector and why?

To consider possible future models, we must first understand the impact of 20 years of continuous disruptive policy changes. Analysis of the concerns TEU members raised in forums, along with information from existing research, provides considerable insight and information about what makes it hard for the sector to respond to student, community and employer needs:

  1. ad hoc responses to Tiriti responsibilities;
  2. disruptive and continuous policy changes leading to marketisation and corporatisation in the sector;
  3. top down decision-making that overrides institutional autonomy and leads to staff, students, and communities being excluded from democratic participation; and,
  4. high levels of auditing and ‘managerialism’ (implemented through blunt performance measures like EPIs and PBRF) which lead to a culture of mistrust.

What should models for tertiary education in NZ look like?

We need the following foundations for tertiary education to continue to contribute to productivity for wellbeing – for individuals, whānau/families, communities and business, industry and service providers:

  1. actively progressing a Tiriti relationship;
  2. responsible autonomy for institutions and staff;
  3. diversity of provision – both across the country and within each institution;
  4. people (in the context of their whānau and community) at the centre of the system; and
  5. funding models which ensure staff and students have the resources needed to flourish.

Once we agree upon these foundations, staff in the sector should have a central role in developing the models and processes we need to meet the broad outcomes society wants from its tertiary education sector.


The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Productivity Commission’s issues paper released as part of the ‘Inquiry into New Models for Tertiary Education’.

The TEU is the largest union and professional association in the tertiary education sector, representing approximately 10,000 academic and general staff (in universities, institutes of technology/polytechnics, wānanga, private training establishments, and REAPs).

The union’s objectives[1] underline the value we place on advocating for the professional and industrial aspirations of staff working in tertiary education, as well as broader social change agendas that seek to reduce inequality, improve wellbeing and ensure that we are all able to participate in and benefit from civil society. As outlined in TEU’s objectives, we also firmly believe that the best framework for our union and the sector is one where New Zealand realises its Tiriti relationship is fully and equitably.

The TEU, along with NZUSA (the national students’ association) is also uniquely positioned to raise issues of concern to students and propose solutions, because our members work with students daily in the context of teaching and learning and in student and learning support services. We comment on specific issues affecting students’ learning throughout the submission.

Tertiary education is a complex process, relying on in-depth understanding of teaching and learning and the best ways to support students during their learning. Therefore, any decisions we make about the way to achieve sound educational outcomes must rest on professional advice from staff at all levels in the sector, with input from students and employers. It is the professional voice of staff and their evaluation of what is working (or not) that will ensure we have policy, regulation, and processes in tertiary education that enhance innovation and creativity, ensure quality teaching and learning, and promote productivity for well-being.

Despite the extensive change the sector has experienced over the last two decades, we argue that there has been little systematic evaluation into why particular approaches and models work and others are less successful. It is important to understand and represent the current state of teaching, learning, research and student support rather than drawing conclusions that may be based on flawed assumptions.

To inform our response to the issues paper we gathered information from a series of focus groups and meetings with TEU members. These included focus groups held in March/April 2016 with 135 staff from across the tertiary education sector specifically to discuss the inquiry. We also have drawn on qualitative data and collaborative research carried out in 2013/14 as part of a project titled Te Kaupapa Whaioranga: the blueprint for tertiary education. Te Kaupapa Whaioranga sets out our members’ views of the issues facing the sector and what changes we need to make so that we can retain the important public good values of tertiary education.

We also sought input from TEU’s Council, TEU branches and our own industrial and policy staff who work daily in this sector. We asked these groups to provide ideas, comments, and questions on the information we gathered through the focus groups and synthesis of secondary materials.

We analysed the focus group material thematically, then we examined how the evidence presented by staff in the sector sat with regard the core questions of the inquiry. All of the qualitative data from the membership is set in the context of current national and international discussions on tertiary education.

TEU has also commissioned researchers to complete short reviews on several topics relevant to the sector and this inquiry. We have incorporated key points into our submission and will provide the research notes to the inquiry team.

Structure of this submission

TEU’s submission contains four inter-related sections. The submission sets out:

  • the purpose of tertiary education most accepted by our membership and beyond (Section 1);
  • their analysis of the spaces and places where staff are meeting the broad purpose and why (Section 2);
  • then onto analysis from staff about what is not working (Section 3);
  • before finally using all three substantive sections to set out the necessary foundations on which we must base a 21st century tertiary education system in New Zealand (Section 4).

Section 1: In order to debate the overall structure needed for the sector and the models that may emerge from this, New Zealand’s diverse communities need to agree on the purpose of the sector. This section sets out this purpose by drawing on the Education Act 1989, international best practice, and long held norms about the purpose of further and higher education.

The ministers’ terms of reference for the inquiry suggest tertiary education may need to change because of the potential impact of a number of ‘drivers’. While we accept that these drivers affect the decisions we must make as a sector and country, we should respond to them in ways which move us towards the broad purpose for tertiary education set out in this submission. As a society, and a sector, we need to recognise that we can take active measures to mitigate the effects of these and other factors, rather than assume that we are powerless to respond.

Section 2: We have chosen to set out existing moments of innovation and creativity which are widespread in our sector, rather than accept a deficit model which assumes ineffectiveness and break-down in the system (for example the statement in the terms of reference for the inquiry that there is “considerable inertia” in our system). In our dynamic tertiary education sector, much has changed over time. However staff still manage to provide high-quality teaching and learning experiences and student support services, produce nationally and internationally recognised research, and ensure that institutions run smoothly and effectively, with careful stewardship of property and assets.

In this section we also provide an expanded discussion of productivity and innovation which takes as its starting point the Commission’s own statements about ‘productivity for wellbeing’ – thus moving our understanding from simply focusing on a limited range of credential outputs, research outputs, and economic outputs to much broader social, cultural, economic, and environmental outcomes.

Section 3: In developing a sound foundation for policy and regulation of tertiary education it is crucial to define clearly the problems staff face in the day-to-day implementation of high-level strategic plans and goals. Therefore, we asked both general and academic staff for their analysis of what inhibits innovation and creativity. By doing so we have sought to establish what is getting in the way of productivity for wellbeing, innovation and creativity, and sound educational outcomes.

Section 4: Our final substantive section proposes the foundations we need to ensure quality tertiary education in New Zealand.

These foundations are necessary to meet the broad purpose set out in Section 1 – that the tertiary education system must meet the social, cultural, environmental and economic needs of the nation, and that it must be able to address the diverse needs of current and future learners, throughout their lifetimes.

We can only achieve sound organisational models for the sector by advancing our Te Tiriti o Waitangi relationship. We need to engage in discussions about how to realise tino rangatiratanga within tertiary education. Further to this, we need to ensure responsible autonomy for institutions and individuals; we need to place people at the centre of all decision-making; we must provide genuine structures for students to present their issues and articulate their views; and we must ensure there is adequate support for those working and studying in the tertiary education sector.

Section one: What is the purpose of tertiary education?

The Education Act 1989 sets out the responsibilities of the tertiary education sector and the responsibilities of each institution type. It also includes specific responsibilities for institutions, staff and students with regard to academic freedom and critic and conscience functions.

Our view is that the Education Act, as it pertains to tertiary education, has the necessary breadth to provide the broad purpose for our sector and therefore political ideologies, populist trends or unmitigated external factors should not be override it.

The Act states that tertiary education should:

  1. contribute to the development of cultural and intellectual life in New Zealand;
  2. help develop a skilled and knowledgeable population;
  3. contribute to the sustainable economic and social development of the nation; and
  4. strengthen New Zealand’s knowledge base[2]

These objectives for tertiary education are reflected in international norms and best practice (see UN 1948: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Article 26; UNESCO 1997: Sections III, IV; University of Cambridge 2016: “The University’s mission and core values”).

These international examples support our view that the evidence and examples we use in responding to the issues paper must focus on educational and social wellbeing objectives rather than narrower economic outputs. Importantly, such an approach relies on taking a system-wide view that accommodates different organisational models[3]. It also requires decision-making and policy development that retain these responsibilities at their core.

“First we need agreement on the vision for tertiary education in this country so that the sector can move forward with certainty, instead of being constantly subjected to changing political ideologies that politicians then try to impose on the sector.”

ITP academic

In addition to the objectives outlined in the Education Act, Te Tiriti o Waitangi challenges us to continue to work towards a society that genuinely reflects the intention of its articles. Therefore, one of the core purposes of tertiary education in New Zealand should be to advance us as a nation towards a true Tiriti relationship that seeks to realise tino rangatiratanga fully – the sovereignty of iwi Māori.

Internationally, tertiary education is seen to be a core human service for advancing human capabilities. The UN notes that education should be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms (UN 1948: Article 26).

It is also accepted that tertiary education is a core human service for improving social mobility and reducing inequality. The Currie Commission (1962:12) advocated:

…maximum educational opportunity for all, since they regard the people as a whole as an important part of the natural wealth of the country; not to educate them to their maximum capacity is to leave part of the country‘s resources undeveloped.

Another objective for the sector is the role tertiary education plays in working towards addressing the major social, environmental, and scientific issues of any given moment. As Grey and Sedgwick (2014:118-9) note, “The lack of focus on the ‘public good’ and ‘public outcomes’ of education comes at a critical time in history when our world faces major social, economic and environmental problems”.

We cannot ignore either global warming or increasing inequality (see OECD 2011; Rashbrooke 2013). We desperately need the tertiary education sector to help develop critically engaged and innovative citizens to tackle these issues (see, e.g., “The Talloires Declaration: Association
Future 1990”). Tertiary education must contribute to democracy by supporting learners to enhance their critical thinking abilities, and through research that challenges assumptions and generates new knowledge and understanding.

We assert that the last 20 years has seen change in tertiary education policy and regulation which has shifted the purpose of the sector from objectives set out in the 1989 Act and those working in the sector, to a focus on achieving the objectives of the government of the day. This has shifted the measure of success from achievement of broad objectives and multiple outcomes to a series of measurable outputs.

This instrumental approach means life-long learning has become learning for a specific job, agreed broad education outcomes become meeting short-term priorities set by government, and success is determined by easily measured outputs rather than longer-term outcomes. This instrumentalism has meant that we have taken no heed of Hawke (2008: 5), who noted “Learning is part of modern life not a preparation for it”.

These policy and regulatory changes have also affected democracy in tertiary education, including removing the ability for staff and students to participate actively in decision-making, and replacing this with managers focused on implementing the will of government. We discuss these changes in Section 3 of the submission.

Section 2: What does the tertiary education sector achieve and how?

This section examines a snapshot of existing data that shows the high-level achievements of New Zealand’s tertiary education sector. It then presents the perspectives of those working in the sector. Over many years, TEU members have argued that tertiary education must focus on transformational and lifelong learning, rather than just economic outputs. Innovation and creativity must support broad objectives, not just outputs.

Staff who participated in the focus groups repeatedly spoke of the daily innovations needed to achieve quality education and reflected on the practices and resources that supported the outcomes set out in Section 1. Staff and students are often working and operating in sub-optimal conditions (these will be unpacked in Section 3) driving them further and further from their desires to deliver ‘learning for life’.

Staff noted that creation, evaluation, and re-creation of good teaching and learning practices occurred in both formal and informal spaces in the sector. |They achieve innovation best in collegial and collective environments (though again current policy and institutional practices challenge any attempts to work in this manner – see Section 3).

The focus groups discussed ways of improving education for the benefit of all New Zealanders but they were clear that part of this was defending existing practices where evaluation and reflection show that these work. For example, it is not inertia or intransigence that leads staff to defend face-to-face teaching, but because collective reflection and evaluation demonstrates that it works for many learners, subjects, disciplines, and vocations.

A high functioning sector

Quantitative data evaluating the effectiveness of tertiary education in New Zealand show its positive impact on individuals, communities, and the economy. Much of the data focusses on the economic outputs of the sector, as this has been the focus of successive governments and is easier to measure than non-economic gains. An earlier Ministry of Education report which collated evidence around outcomes of the New Zealand tertiary education system included information on employment and income, economic growth, health, living standards and crime. It concluded that: “Overall, the overwhelming weight of evidence points to there being significant and positive outcomes from the tertiary education system” (Smart 2006: 9).

The indicators from the Ministry of Education’s data also suggest high levels of responsiveness to the needs of a rapidly changing society and economy – in contrast to the assumptions noted in the inquiry’s terms of reference. We recognise that these figures are not uniform – particularly in regard to outcomes for Māori and Pacific people – but overall they indicate a sector that is having considerable success in meeting its objectives.

In the university sector, data gathered about degree completions show that this part of the sector is performing well compared to other jurisdictions:

New Zealand has some of the best degree completion rates in the world – 17 percent who start at a university in NZ do not have a qualification within eight years compared with 18 percent in the UK, 27 percent in Australia, 42 percent in the US, 50-55 percent in South America and Asia. (Universities NZ 2016)

A more detailed picture emerges from data on how universities have responded to calls for closer integration between study for professional qualifications and the workplaces graduates may ultimately enter:

All New Zealand universities recognise the value of work experience and how it enhances the employability of students… About 32 percent of all university graduates in 2013 completed a professional qualification. (Universities NZ 2015)

A recent BERL report on the direct financial returns of polytechnic study to the community found (using Aoraki Polytechnic as an example) that:

Aoraki Polytechnic contributed a total of $47.4 million to the South Canterbury region’s GDP and resulting in employment for 702 FTEs for one year. (BERL 2012)

Like other parts of the sector, ITPs of course have a much wider remit than the financial returns they provide to their communities – such as contributing to a skilled workforce and providing opportunities for lifelong learning. The work ITPs undertake with Industry Training Organisations in assisting with the provision of workplace learning is another notable contribution to the sector.

The emergence and continued growth of wānanga in the tertiary education sector provides a defined space where mātauranga Māori can flourish in a setting determined by āhuatanga Māori and tikanga Māori. Wānanga have made a substantial contribution to improvements in educational outcomes for Māori in the sector, but equally importantly to social and cultural wellbeing indicators that underpin productivity for wellbeing.(BERL 2014).

Pihama et al. (2004: 10) note, “Kaupapa Māori challenges the political context of unequal power relations and associated structural impediments”. Thus, wānanga also serve as transformative spaces where Māori can make sense of the widespread disparities between whānau Māori and other citizens. They are also spaces where mātauranga Māori is nurtured, created and re-created.

We find further evidence of the importance of tertiary education by examining the contribution of adult and community education (ACE). Since it was first set up, ACE has played an important role igniting or re-igniting the desire to learn for people across communities. Its core principles, based on the notion of the ‘joy of learning’ are that it:

…occurs alongside the formal education system and is therefore accessible to all. It promotes a culture of lifelong learning. It happens in a wide range of contexts in both structured and spontaneous forms, all of which have their own value… It may be initiated by individual and group needs which encourage adults to learn to understand their world and to seek change within it.(ACE Working Party 2001: 8)

A 2008 report prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers provided an evidence base for the contribution ACE makes to social wellbeing indicators:

58 percent of [ACE] participants indicated they had an improvement in their health, with 33 percent indicating a significant improvement. Over 73 percent of respondents indicated an improvement in home/family life, which is significant in reducing the effects of domestic violence… An improvement in overall happiness was identified by 88 percent of participants. (PWC 2008: 30)

What is innovation?

In Section 1, we described the purpose of tertiary education, which outlines the sector’s responsibility towards New Zealand as a whole. We reflect this through the Education Act’s broad social wellbeing objectives, in our efforts to embody Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and in the need to respond to the world’s pressing social, economic and environmental problems. Innovation in tertiary education is about bringing these broad and equally important outcomes to fruition.

The very nature of education – as a transformative and relational process – means that those who work in this sector daily must innovate, create, and re-create in order to respond to student and community needs, as well as institutional, employer, and government demands. The job of those working in the sector is to transform its high-level objectives into meaningful learning experiences, research, and other services, that in turn contribute to the outcomes we require. These needs are complex and multi-faceted, a fact well-understood by those whose work has a role in their resolution. Therefore, teaching, learning and student support must take place in an environment where we encourage and support the dynamic interaction of ideas.

We can see innovation and creativity in tertiary education in New Zealand in a range of places:

  1. In the collective creation, evaluation, and re-creation of best practices which improve teaching and learning, including the ongoing work to connect knowledge generation with the dissemination of this knowledge to students and communities;
  2. In the collective creation, evaluation, and re-creation of processes that stimulate and encourage innovation, creation, and risk taking by staff and students;
  3. In the innovation and creativity employed by staff to cope with the ever changing regulatory and compliance requirements from within and outside the sector, requirements which often negatively affect relationships, disciplines, and careers (we will examine these factors in Section 3).

TEU’s broader membership views stand in contrast to the definition of innovation used by the government and the Productivity Commission. The Productivity Commission (2016: xi) defines innovation as “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that has value”. Quantitative data usually focuses on this aspect of productivity too – because it is easier to measure. However the key question is what ‘goods and services’ are of ‘value’, and what type of value is deemed most important? Increasingly it seems productivity and innovation are only considered in terms of economic value, the ability to turn ideas and knowledge into commercial products and this definition has largely supplanted a much broader view of innovation.

The current Tertiary Education Strategy 2014-19 illustrates the much greater emphasis placed on linking productivity to economic outputs: “We want to increase the tertiary education system’s impact on innovation occurring across the country, and hence lift economic growth” (MoE 2014: 17).

Given the government’s narrow focus on economic outputs, measures of innovation and success in the sector have been restricted to contributions to short-term economic growth. While data of this nature gives us a broad indication of how successful the system is, it cannot tell us why the sector is high performing. We can only address this by speaking with the professionals who work across tertiary education.

The focus groups also discussed the structural and procedural support needed for these innovations to occur.

To allow innovative practices to flourish (rather than be squeezed into corners of the daily practices found in tertiary education), we must acknowledge that innovation is inextricably linked to creativity. Both rely on an environment and structures that support and encourage taking considered risks, making mistakes (and learning from these without fear of censure), reflecting, critiquing, and collaborating.

The European University Association (2007:34, 30) describes the need to “create an institutional milieu favourable to creativity”, noting that funding mechanisms and quality processes may have “limiting effects…in the context of the creativity agenda.”

The environment needed for innovation and creativity to flourish is one of stability – including stable employment arrangements and working conditions, appropriate funding levels, and participatory and collegial decision-making.

Innovation is concerned with knowledge utilization, that is transforming knowledge into value; creativity is associated with knowledge generation, that is contributing to the human intellectual scope. Therefore, innovation needs creativity to produce new value for society… (Alfantookh and Bakry 2013: 91)

Maintaining a staff profile where most employees have permanent jobs provides stability, and retains institutional knowledge and genuine opportunities for staff to have a satisfying career.

Our focus groups were concerned about the use of ‘sessional and contract’ staff to meet teaching demands in institutions. They were not reflecting on the quality of staff on contract, but rather than it is hard to build a strong curriculum, to reflect and innovate, when staff are only employed for a single semester.

What do innovations in teaching and learning look like?

TEU members provided countless examples of the innovative and creative ways in which they adapted their teaching practices daily.

Much of this innovative and creative thinking and practice happens spontaneously and organically, through the course of the working day, and in response to immediate issues and challenges.

However, the creation, reflection, and re-creation of best practice in teaching also happens in formal spaces within institutions. This reflexive practice ranges from:

  • staff working as a team to review programme structures to adapt to regional need,
  • creating more effective systems to support students,
  • refining processes for the care and maintenance of the institutions’ physical assets. and
  • reflecting on the best ways to remain connected and engaged with iwi, communities and employers.

TEU members provided us with countless examples of the innovative ways in which they adapt their teaching practices; the systems and processes they use to support students; the processes they use to ensure the organisation runs smoothly; and how and what they research (a few of which are elaborated below). The innovations in teaching and learning are evident in institutional teaching awards and in the national tertiary teaching awards run by Ako Aotearoa.

“Students had water samples under the microscope in order to identify the range of organisms in the sample. To help these ESOL students remember the correct terms for each organism, the teacher suggested they take a photo and label it, then use it in the field when they collected their specimens to see if they matched. An example of an organic approach to innovative practice – responding to this specific cohort of students and their language comprehension needs.”

ITP academic

One area of teaching and learning innovation centres on the spaces and styles of teaching by staff. TEU members spoke of the diverse ways they engage students in learning. However, they noted frequently that it was face-to-face spaces where critical discussions and debates occurred. It is these discussions and debates that provided for quality learning, making it crucial to incorporate this approach into curriculum and programme design.

The importance of face-to-face learning sat in the context of the use of new information communication technologies. Many staff noted they were using blended delivery models that replicate the best features of their face-to-face programmes, including adopting proper parameters to manage staff workload, and to ensure students get the same quality as those who might daily attend a physical campus.

In these models, technology is the tool for the programme, not the driver. Some TEU members noted that well-supported blended delivery models could work extremely well for students and for staff, allowing flexibility and access for some who may otherwise not have participated in tertiary education.

“Access to tertiary education is only possible for the students I teach because of the blended approach. They could not move to Hamilton to study as they are mature adults, geographically isolated in the regions, with family and work responsibilities, and links to their communities that they do not wish to sever. In terms of priority learners (mentioned by the productivity commission), a significant proportion of the graduates have been rural Māori women who never imagined they could attend university at all.

“While blended learning is great for students, it is also particularly good for me personally as an educator and academic, as it is enjoyable and enables me to be productive in the wider sphere of my academic responsibilities – incorporating research, administration and service. My life, work, and well-being are enhanced by the opportunity to work online.”

University academic

Staff spoke of the collegial spaces they create on a daily basis – both formal and informal – in which to develop skills to achieve the broad objectives of tertiary education set out in Section 1. For example, academic staff at the University of Auckland set up a group to educate and train colleagues in their fundamental role as acting as the critic and conscience of society.

Innovative practices in teaching and learning often involve staff working with communities to provide real world experiences for students. In one case, for example, trades tutors sourced local businesses that were able to give students experiences on the latest machinery in their trade; machinery the institution could not afford to purchase. In another example, staff at a university worked with the community and voluntary sector organisations in their city to provide social policy students with work experience. The assessment for the course included a research or policy project for the organisation. This approach provided learning opportunities for students, staff, and the community and voluntary sector.

What we need to support innovations in teaching and learning?

Just as individuals are able to and currently do contribute to innovation, so do organisational practices. To meet student needs, and comply with the broad objectives of tertiary education set out in Section 1, staff identified a range of organisational models and practices that are important.

At the heart of this approach are systems that put people (both staff and students) at the centre of decision-making. Including staff at all levels in institutional decision-making, whether this is about physical teaching spaces, policy, or strategy leads to better results, because those who will be using the ideas can properly evaluate and test them before they need to implement them.

Staff noted that the key to innovation within teaching and learning is having time and space to develop processes organically based on deep knowledge and understanding of teaching and learning. This means, for example, understanding the learner in context and developing suites of assessments to suit programme requirements and learner needs.

Staff working together allowed for the introduction of ‘concept mapping’ at one regional ITP, as a different way of assessing student learning.  This was incredibly important for supporting quality, innovative teaching practice.

Focus group members were committed to the integration of student and academic support. Staff noted that general and academic staff worked closely with each other in institutions to meet the needs of students.

TEU members talked about having systems that allow time to reflect on one’s own practice, for training staff about new equipment, processes and policies, and for structured opportunities for professional development.With regard to the importance of professional development, Projects International (2010:51) notes that there is “frequent anecdotal evidence of the impact of their staff development and support mechanisms on their teachers”.

“As academics with a range of teaching, research and service commitments, its rather easy to have our weeks fill with meetings, classes and other events. While it is important to attend to these aspects of our work, its equally important that we approach our academic responsibilities thoughtfully and reflectively, with a scholarly approach informed by literature. This is not a ‘nice to have’: we need to do this. From our experience the best way to ensure this is to timetable time into your week for reading, writing and thinking…While we cannot be overly rigid about this thinking time…we cannot make our best contributions to the department, faculty, institution or discipline without it.”

University academic.

There is no doubt that staff in sector want organisational cultures that develop and maintain diverse teaching spaces, styles, programmes, and staff, thus ensuring that they can meet diverse student needs. This includes, for example, developing teaching spaces that replicate workplaces. These support teaching practices and assessments that demonstrate workplace requirements and allow students to apply theory, techniques and tools directly to a real-life setting.

“I’ve had a lot of support from my head of school, colleagues, and the Centre for Academic Development to discuss innovation in teaching….Free workshops run by CAD were an excellent way to develop new skills….and to reflect on teaching practice.”

University academic

Staff believe it is crucial that students can (at least in the early stages of their learning journey) study or train in their own community. This structure should be in an environment where each person can see themselves reflected in programme choices, the organisation of the teaching and learning environment.

Staff also noted that teaching and learning works best where cultural context is recognised and responded to – such as versatile spaces that can be easily adapted for different styles of delivery. An in depth example of this can be found in the work carried out by Helen Potter to review the elements that contribute to Māori student success (see box).

Innovative teaching approaches and support services that have contributed to Māori student success

(Summary of research note by Helen Potter for TEU, May 2016).

Of critical importance to Māori student success in tertiary education over the last 15 years has been the development and provision of both culturally-responsive teaching approaches and content and culturally-responsive student support services by providers. Alongside this has necessarily been an investment into Māori teaching and support staff. A considerable body of research has built up over this time which provides a strong evidence base in support of a kaupapa Māori-based approach to successful tertiary education provision for Māori students.[4]

In each of these areas, the key themes from the evidence base are:

Culturally-responsive teaching approaches and content:

  • Quality teaching practices that draw on kaupapa Māori pedagogical approaches including ako, tuakana-teina, manaakitanga, aroha, awhi, and tautoko;
  • Course content and/or programme options that draw on or connect learning with a Māori worldview, including te reo me ona tikanga Māori, to ensure inclusion of and relevance to Māori students;
  • Learning takes place in a whānau environment that fosters a sense of belonging and values and affirms learners’ Māori identity;
  • The importance of strong, positive teacher-learner relationships that foster learners’ confidence and engagement and where the need for more Māori teaching staff is seen to be especially important.

Culturally-responsive student support services:

  • Provision of academic learning support such as Māori peer mentoring programmes and Māori learning spaces that are “havens to be normal” such as Māori tutorials, whānau rooms, and campus-based marae;
  • Provision of pastoral learning support including Māori staff who are able to connect Māori students with information and resources as needed;
  • Provision of activities to facilitate whakawhanaungatanga and enable Māori students to develop social and academic networks that enhance a sense of belonging;
  • Facilitation of whānau involvement in learning given their key role in motivating and supporting learning success.

Investment into Māori teaching and support staff:

  • Increasing the number of Māori teaching and support staff;
  • Investment into the professional learning and development of Māori teaching and support staff, including in leadership;
  • Investment into the professional learning and development of non-Māori staff in cultural responsiveness to support Māori student success.

Another crucial factor that affects the ability of staff to take risk and be innovative is the levels of autonomy and trust in institutions. This manifests itself in a range of ways.

Focus group participants spoke of the need for a high level of trust in staff professionalism. They described how they maintain the quality of teaching and learning through peer-reviewing, collegial debate, and team moderation of student assessment. This is not about blind faith, rather processes in which staff have the autonomy to maintain the integrity of their profession. For TEU members this also means maintaining transparency in auditing processes as a way of assuring professional quality.

We need trust and active support for academic freedom to ensure students are in critical learning spaces. A high trust workplace allows staff to use their professional judgement and be effective in their roles. Another space where high trust enables creative teaching practices, was where staff were actively making and maintaining their own connections to employers and businesses for the benefit of students and the communities (rather than where institutions took over this role).

TEU members talked about how beneficial it is for them as professionals for their institution to encourage and support them to participate on expert advisory groups, private and public sector boards and iwi and hapū boards and committees. Many of these connections have a reciprocal benefit for students or programmes – for example student placement, or new programme development initiatives.

Focus groups noted an environment where it is easy for staff to engage with their union and professional body, to enable them to connect to workplace and sector issues and ideas and the latest developments in their area of expertise, is also important. These connections provide another space where staff can engage with their profession and workplace, building their own expertise and contributing to the effective tertiary education.

Section 3: What is holding back innovation and creativity?

To further aid in discussions about the best models for tertiary education, it is necessary to examine how current systems aid or inhibit these goals and the extent to which the sector meets its core objectives (Section 1).

As we noted in the beginning of our submission, there is a lack of evaluation of how policy and regulatory regimes affect the activities of the tertiary education sector.

Our focus groups with TEU members across the country discussed what stopped them from being productive, innovative and creative, and what diverted them from enacting the objectives set out in Section 1.

They identified two broad areas which inhibited their activity: top-down decision-making (from government and institutional managers); and a lack of resources. These two factors are heavily interrelated and each has multiple manifestations.

The major challenges to tertiary education

It is clear to those working in the sector that continual disruptive interventions by successive governments are primarily responsible for the negative outcomes we see in the sector.

Increasingly governments’ policy and regulatory settings have moved institutions away from the objectives set out in Section 1 and towards corporatised and marketised approaches to teaching, learning, research and student support.

In TEU’s recent discussions with members, a group of university academics described a large number of current concerns:

Insecure work, managerialism, a changing organisational culture (universities as businesses, students as customers), student/staff ratios, the demands of a very diverse student population without the necessary support, transitions from school to tertiary education, problems with NCEA, competing for international students, loss of administrative staff, competitiveness generally, time poverty.

These concerns are consistent with the broad picture of changes to education in Aotearoa that we previously described in Te Kaupapa Whaioranga: The Blueprint for Tertiary Education:

Over the last three decades, the entire New Zealand education sector has been subjected to the requirements of free market engagement –the neoliberal agenda – which brings with it continuous financial and managerial pressures. The former generates underfunding, falling full-time equivalent staff numbers, increasing staff: student ratios, increased fees, course closures, growing class sizes, institutional insecurity over competition for funds and other resources, and insecurity for staff and students. The latter often result in never-ending restructuring of positions, constant reviews, deregulation and re-regulation, pressure to find cheaper modes of course and programme delivery, relentless planning and the attendant requirements of micro-management and reporting demands. (Grey, Sedgwick and Scott 2013:13)

The impacts on the tertiary sector were also recognised in a 2001 Tertiary Education Advisory Committee report to Government, which noted that the tertiary sector was suffering from “[r]isk aversion, compliance mentality, change fatigue and low morale, perverse incentives that promote homogeneity, mediocrity and credential inflation, lack of inspired leadership, lack of research on tertiary education itself” (English 2006:70-1).

These comments are reflected in the New Zealand Work Research Institute’s (NZWRI) description of the disruptive effects of past changes to the sector (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014). This study details several themes based on the comments of respondents:

As noted above, commercialisation concerns staff in the tertiary education sector. NZWRI respondents’ spoke of “money-oriented decisions …eroding the intrinsic value of education”, noting the turn away from concern with “the pursuit of knowledge for the wider social good”.

This turn away from knowledge and learning has demoralised staff (McLeod and Bentley 2014:4), and this clearly pushes the sector away from innovation and creativity. Students are also critical of the academic approach the current policy environment creates (see, e.g., Carlos and Cohn 2014).

It is important to look at the effects in turn:

  1. Government decision-making and funding constraints lead to managerial innovation and performance management of staff.
  2. Together these have a negative impact on the well-being of staff and students, and negatively impact on genuine innovation and creativity, and productivity for wellbeing.
  3. The system preserves individual institutions and the advancement of those staff and students who are able to meet the demands set by government and institutions, rather than the preservation of broader education outcomes in line with the objectives set out in Section 1.
  4. All of this leads to a managerial environment that involves re-prioritising objectives and regulating the workforce and students.
  5. The outcomes of this process lead to heavy-handed top down management, perverse outcomes that cut across the provision of quality public tertiary education serving all New Zealanders, and cognitive dissonance for many of the staff in the sector.

Top-down decision-making

At the focus groups staff spoke about the perverse outcomes from the funding priorities (which are often implemented through competitive funding approaches); the loss of democracy for staff and students; the increasing levels of auditing of ‘outputs’; the control of who gets to study what, when, and where.

Given the policy and institutional constraints on them, academic staff respond in understandable ways. Three decades of change have resulted in external rewards rather than the intrinsic value of the job itself motivating people (see Ordonez et al 2009:15). Neyland (2010; xix) notes:

“When economists try to hammer and cut education into the shape of a market place where commodities are traded, we make it easier by thinking of teaching as the provision of a service, and, in the manner of a contract, by awarding tokens for the demonstration of the prescribed outputs”.

The system of performance management encourages ‘gaming’ of the system, with staff for example, responding to the pressure from their institution to produce a certain amount of research outputs undertaking research in limited areas or repeatedly ‘mining’ the same information for multiple outputs. This reduces genuinely innovative and creative work. Clearly, this is a systemic problem rather than an individual issue.

Such responses to the system also atomise the workforce and disrupt the collegial atmosphere, reducing the ability for staff to act collectively. Thus, the system itself diminishes the opportunity to resist the system, and thereby act in innovative and creative ways.

A process interpreted by the government as evidence of intransigence and inertia (as is indicated in the inquiry’s terms of reference) is simply staff responding rationally to the system they are required to work within. Nayland is particular concerned by why today’s educators are so keen to please “as educators we have a poor sense of who we are and what education is” (Nayland 2010: xix).

TEU members often note that they comply with government and managerial demands because of fear of what will happen if they do not act, even though at times the demands cut across the objectives of the sector.

Government control of TEIs

The government has framed the tertiary education sector in Aotearoa as untrustworthy, with the Ministry of Education viewing the sector as lacking direction and therefore using funding inefficiently (MoE 2006:135). The assumption appears to be that the education system is incapable of recognising economic imperatives (see, e.g., Mahoney 2003: 4).

As described in Section 2, this is far from the case. Staff in the sector continually innovate in order to meet the ever-changing demands of industry, government, students, funding and resource constraints, and much more. However, the changes demanded often sit uncomfortably with staff as they do not support the broad purposes set out in Section 1.

Governments’ mistrust of the sector has resulted in an increasingly narrow focus for tertiary education on a restricted form of economic outputs. Successive governments have pursued this belief in their regulatory, policy, and funding approaches despite the fact that steering is a complex undertaking (OECD 2006: 41).

In recent years, government objectives have driven this steering (McLaughlin 2003:25-28; Zepke 2012:3). Previously we have argued that “there must be a balance between control and freedom…  [And] that the harm being created in the sector is evidence that the balance has shifted too far towards heavy-handed government steering” (Grey and Scott 2012:11).

Roberts (2007: 361-2) describes “The obsession with ‘accountability’ under neoliberalism”, and this is evident in tertiary education in Aotearoa.

Government imposed steering of the sector has imposed increased auditing measures upon the sector to count and measure their ‘outputs’. This leads to a change in management style in tertiary education. While the Education Act (s 161) describes “the freedom of the institution and its staff to teach and assess students in the manner they consider best promotes learning”, this is undermined by current governmental steering practices.

The continuous stream of auditing and measurement tools used to ensure TEI activity aligns to government goals constrains the rights of institutions and their staff to make decisions about teaching, research and other activities. “The picture is one of institutions and their academics being robbed of the space to be engaged in projects which are not countable, auditable, measurable, or commercialisable” (Grey 2016:1).

The rise of managerialism to implement the government strategy

Along with analyses by TEU members in various fora, there is a significant body of literature that has focused on reviewing neo-liberal higher and further education approaches (see, Codd 1999; Bridgman 2007; Shore 2008, 2010; Middleton 2009; Abbot 2004; McLaughlin 2003). Stewart (2011:49) highlights the dangers of such an approach:

The ascendancy of entrepreneurial university managements who emphasise a market-based rationality in which education becomes a consumer good, and who have a correspondingly anxious eye on consumer satisfaction and public relations as well as governments concerned with fiscal constraints, corporate ties and short term priorities, are paving the way for dangerous widespread institutional change.

Sidelining of staff and students in decision-making

Tertiary education staff consistently cite the “insufficient staff involvement in decision making” as an issue (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:3).

A loss of autonomy and involvement in decision-making is common in the tertiary education sector at present. Nearly 90 percent of NZWRI respondents said they felt there was a top-down style of management at their institution, and 71 percent disagreed that there was sufficient staff involvement in decision-making and policy development (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014: 14).

A TEU member (ITP academic) commented on their lack of voice in decision-making: “People who don’t support this faculty’s philosophy (flipped classrooms, open-plan teaching and learning) will be offered ‘professional development’ – so if you have professional concerns about this approach, you’ll be sent to ‘The Re-Education Centre’!”

This lack of opportunity to contribute to decision-making which staff describe is supported by the literature, which notes a shift in decision-making from faculty to professional administrators (Gumport 2001 in Stewart 2011:57; cf. Karran 2007; Jones et al. 2012).

This is concerning for a number of reasons. In terms of innovation and creativity, an NZWRI respondent comments: “Senior staff and divisional heads actively clamp down on staff initiative, and do not let us lower creatures do anything without checking with them a million times” (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:14).

Bentley, McLeod and Teo (2014:12) comment: “In higher education, concerns arising from New Public Management have revolved around the potential undermining of the high levels of professional autonomy, collegiality and participatory decision making that some see as normative for the sector.” Furthermore, as noted earlier, the views of those working in New Zealand institutions reflect worldwide concerns of academic and general staff communities.

The effects of this system of management are concerning. Firstly, it erodes ideals of sociability, collegiality, collaboration and genuine scholarship. Strathern (in Dew 2004:188) comments: “The auditing of research and teaching outputs of universities promotes a standardisation and normalisation of practices fostering conformity which has direct consequences, and for many dire ones, for intellectual production.”

Ultimately, micro-management also constrains creativity and innovation. This links with the importance of academic freedom. As Jones et al. (2000:1) state:

Academic freedom is inseparable from a university’s role as critic and conscience of society. This is because academic freedom can only exist within an environment that encourages creativity, radical ideas and criticism of the status quo; and conversely, freedom is needed to express criticism.

It is not just staff who see their lack of involvement in decision-making as problematic. The OECD (2003:75) notes, “university leadership will fail if it leaves ‘academic’ interests behind”. When leaders make decisions based on narrow financial considerations without consideration for the implications for teaching and learning, research and student support problems will inevitably arise. A NZWRI respondent cautions around a focus on “profit generation instead of providing education” (McLeod and Bentley 2014:4).

Short-termism and constant change

Another consequence of the government steering and the investment strategy approach (perhaps unintended but real nonetheless) has been short-termism in decision-making. The Ministry of Education (2008:4) states, “The focus [of the Tertiary Education Strategy] is much more explicitly on what the government expects the tertiary education system to contribute and the priority outcomes for the immediate future.” This focus on “the immediate future”, largely in the form of short-term economic needs, is problematic (see, e.g., Collins 2012). The short-termism and constant change has a detrimental effect on the sector and needs to stop. An NZWRI respondent described it as “Short term gain, long term self-destruction” (McLeod and Bentley 2014:4).

Further, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science advisor, Peter Gluckman (2015) notes:

I think New Zealand has ended up with too much end user involvement in the contestable funding system, in the way it is set forward, which has led to much more short-termism in some of our research.

NZWRI respondents cited “various detrimental effects such as wasted time, demoralisation, reduced academic goodwill, and the creation of silos within an institution” (McLeod and Bentley 2014:6).

In the words of one respondent “There are so many major changes. There is no time for consolidation before the goal posts change again” (McLeod and Bentley 2014:6). One might argue that just like in the UK there is little time to properly plan changes as governments seek to rush new fads and processes into operation. Certainly this we hear this approach from Chris Millward, the HEFCE policy director in the UK who notes “Normally we’d want the development of new systems to be based on evidence, but that can take a long time to develop … we don’t… have the luxury of time here,” (Lock 2016).

The question that needs to be asked is why continuous and urgent change is needed?

The drive to meet government ‘targets’

Imposing business-models on public tertiary education has led to government setting a range of targets focused on achieving its narrow economic and instrumental goals. This has affected the autonomy of staff, the shape of the workforce, and what is taught, by whom, where it is taught, and how.

Institutions respond to the policy environment that governments create for them. Government policy has led institutions to become excessively concerned with accountability and efficiency. In this environment, it is the senior management of institutions that implement processes to achieve government targets. This means the mistrust of the sector, which plays out as high levels of auditing and counting, translates into performance measures imposed by senior managers on individual staff. The NZWRI notes the deteriorating trust between management and academic staff, and the micro-management that may be both cause and effect of this (McLeod and Bentley  2014:24; Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:27; see also Mather and Seifert 2014). Micro-management of the tertiary education sector is most evident in the ever-growing number of performance funding models foisted upon it. Government increasingly emphasises performance and performance indicators (research outputs, student retentions, progressions, and completions, and the acquisition of external funding), planning, and auditing processes.

Overall the auditing culture leads institutions to avoid risk. This means staff are reluctant to try new teaching ideas as these may receive poor student evaluations, instead favouring approaches to research and teaching which are safe. Certainly this is noted in the UK by Atul Shah (2016) who states that the research excellence framework has put even more pressure on academics to be conservative and conform, thus making students’ experience even more alienating.

In teaching spaces the targets set by government in the form of educational performance indicators are having a major effect. NZWRI respondents cite the pressure to pass students because of the emphasis placed on retention and completion rates (McLeod and Bentley 2014:19). A TEU member (ITP academic) has commented: “These government funding policy decisions about completions lead institutions to make a ‘rational’ response; to prioritise passing students at all costs. One staff member – who was being forced to pass sub-standard work – left.”

Completion targets have also lead to institutions cherry-picking students. Discussing the Youth Guarantee Fees-Free scheme, Gordon et al. (2014:17) describe how “‘cherry-picking’ is essentially incentivised in the performance system (the EPIs). Those holding this view say that the result of ‘cherry-picking’ is that young people most in need do not have access to the best courses.”

The PBRF has also affected the shape of the tertiary education workforce. Its focus on counting research outputs across the sector means senior researchers are regarded as having high ‘economic value’, so some institutions have avoided appointing junior staff in favour of hiring of established and high ranking senior staff. The MoE (2013) notes that universities have employed a higher proportion of senior academic staff in response to the greater focus on research performance. The result is that they have moved to hire more part-time teaching staff to help manage the costs of the shift to senior academic staff. This represents the efficient use of low-cost labour but results in limitations which inhibit the creative and innovative potential of casualised academic staff. The response to PBRF skews the age profile of the sector, which will cause acute staffing shortages for the future (see, e.g., TEC 2013; BERL and Universities NZ 2010; MoE 2013).

Managerialism and government steering is having an impact on what our institutions teach and research. A large number of NZWRI respondents described the pressure to do more research (McLeod and Bentley 2014:14). One stated, “Research pressure is worse and destructive” (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:18). Academics are told to “work more efficiently”, and that means less time spent on students and more on internationally-peer-reviewed research. We have previously described the overemphasis on research expertise:

The focus on counting research outputs has led to a de-valuing of the importance of teaching, of establishing and maintaining community links, and of maintaining the broadest possible research profile in an institution. There has been an over-emphasis on prioritising research expertise over teaching expertise in some institutions, even in areas where teaching must be practice-based. (Grey, Sedgwick and Scott 2013:15)

Decision-making around use of new technologies

A very specific effect of steering by successive governments worth noting has been demands for institutions to alter their teaching and learning approaches based on what are seen as ‘external drivers’ of change.

One such area where this is problematic is the use of ICT. There is a constant narrative that we must change our teaching methods because ‘new’ technologies are available in the tertiary education sector and because of the demands of ‘the knowledge economy’.

NZWRI respondents were generally positive about improved technology, however they expressed concerns around the “Workload associated with using new technologies for teaching”, which went un-recognised (McLeod and Bentley 2014:21-22). They also expressed concerns about an over-emphasis on technology. One respondent stated:

The bad thing about technology is too much emphasis on the use of technology to an extent that technology can replace face-to-face teaching. Too much importance given to online teaching and doing away with the textbooks will, in the long run, do more harm to the students and to the education system than good.

This is consistent with comments by Thwaites (2011), who warns of fads and “infatuation with digital technologies”, suggesting the importance of critiquing “the educational value of these commodities”.

Our focus should be around the effective use of ‘sustaining technologies’ commonly associated with blended learning. We should base our use of such technologies on the best research available, in the best interests of students and teachers, and with constant reference to the role of tertiary education in society.

Much of the academic literature in support of increasing the use of ICTs in tertiary education relies on the essentialising idea of the ‘digital native’: those students ‘born digital’ and therefore assumed to be more digitally capable than previous generations of learners. This naïve assumption views technology as the focus of the education process, rather than as a tool to benefit the teaching and learning process. This process, once established, means one must assume that more technology, once developed, will improve education.

Studies rarely call for an end to further innovative use of technology in the sector. Rather they point to the need to temper enthusiasm for what we might achieve with ICTs and instead develop a better understanding of the realities of students’ learning experiences. This means shifting from easily measured outputs of achievement, to student and social outcomes which may not be immediate but which are integral to the role of tertiary education in society.

Some also see ICTs as the way to cut both infrastructure and human resource costs. For instance, they view MOOCs as a way of shedding the large lecture halls and delivering in cyberspace. As we will see in the next section, the proposal to use ICTs to cut costs sits inside a full suite of measures and processes aimed at improving the mechanical efficiency of the tertiary education sector – a misguided attempt to get more bang for our buck.

Funding decisions and approaches

This section looks at the government’s use of the TES, Vote Tertiary Education, and performance-based funding models to prioritise and specify activities that meet external economic objectives. It then implements these through internal economic regulation and performance management.

This approach has had a major impact on innovation and creativity in tertiary education, and the wellbeing of those who study and work in the sector. The impact has been greater because governments have implemented ‘fiscally neutral’ budgets and re-prioritised funding within the sector to meet its economic output goals.

Government investment in tertiary education fell $1bn (2014 figures) short of the real cost of running the sector. This gap occurred because the tertiary education budget has flat-lined, while the costs of running our institutions have increased at an average of six percent each year since 1994.

To improve ‘financial efficiency’ like all areas of the public service, government has placed increasing demands for TEIs to act ‘business-like’. We find evidence that government views education as a business in multiple government policy documents and funding decisions (see TEC 2008:32; MoE 2009:1).

This corporatisation of tertiary education and the consequent narrowing of focus towards benefiting commercial interests has eroded the core of the sector (see, e.g., Codd 2001:2) without any overall benefit to society. Business and industry can never guarantee or be synonymous with the public good because their purpose is expressly different – to make a profit for shareholders or owners (see also Campbell 2013).

A focus on benefiting commercial interests also constrains efforts to undertake ‘best practice’ in tertiary education, undermining efforts towards the core goals of education, creating a society that can respond to the significant social and environmental challenges that we face.

Restraints on funding and highly specified requirements for delivery have resulted in managerial initiatives to compensate. Many of the managerial initiatives, while preserving an institution, do little to advance the objectives set out in Section 1.

Successive governments have constrained tertiary education budgets and institutional managers have responded using cost cutting, privatisation, and contracting. Respondents in the NZWRI study report their experience of under-funding, noting that “more is expected with less”, and that “Budget cuts over the last few years are now really starting to impact on activities and quality” (McLeod and Bentley 2014:8-9).

Specific examples of reduced government funding include the loss of community education courses, without real consideration of the impact on learners and communities. This particularly affects women. When talking with staff in community education it is clear there is real human, social, and economic costs of cutting provision at this level.

These cuts to provision for groups of New Zealanders overrides the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 26 which states that “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”. Our narrowly focused funding policies have undermined equality of access to teaching and research in New Zealand. The narrow economic focus of government funding policy has led to a narrowing of who gets to study, where, and when – a clear attack on the principle of equality.

In an environment of fiscal constraint, the New Zealand government has decided to ‘target’ its investment on learners aged 18-25 (Treasury 2011:21) to drive higher economic returns for the taxpayers’ investment in education (MoE 2008: 11). Grey has noted that “Mature students and those studying part-time have been increasingly excluded from tertiary studies through changes to student financing policies” (Grey 2016:6). Figures released in Parliament in 2015 indicate the extent of the impact. The total number of learners aged 55 and over enrolled in tertiary study has plummeted from over 33,000 in 2008 to less than 19,000 in 2014. This leads to a situation where “higher education no longer plays its historical role as a social leveller” (Christopherson et al. 2014:209).

An additional effect of the “austerity model of budgeting in tertiary education” (Grey 2015:10) and the drive for efficiency, is a higher frequency of mergers, which often have further detrimental effects on staff. Mergers are not happening for the benefit of learning, and the social impacts of mergers have rarely been considered.

While TEU is not philosophically opposed to mergers, rationalising and centralising institutions excludes some students from learning, and as a result damages our families, communities, and the economy.

These mergers do affect staff wellbeing, increase workloads, undermine autonomy, and increase stress. In the words of Ambrose (1997:43): “downsizing survivors feel overburdened, ignored, unappreciated, and undervalued in most cases”.

Another area of economic efficiency already noted by staff is the drive to ‘do more’ with either the same resourcing or less. The perception that the sector has become more economically efficient as a result of implementing some of these measures is a falsehood – it has been achieved by staff working long hours unpaid (discussed further below), often bringing their own resources into teaching spaces or carrying the workload of other staff who have not been replaced after reviews.

Efficiency is achieved because of private burden – in the end, this is not sustainable.

Staff are particularly concerned about increasing student: staff ratios (McLeod and Bentley 2014:18). The MoE notes a rise in the ratio of equivalent full-time student units to full-time equivalent staff. In 2001, there were 16.0 equivalent full-time student units per academic full-time equivalent and, in 2011, the number was 17.7 (MoE 2013:6). This has major implications for teaching and learning, as well as for the workloads of staff.

Institutions have developed new relationships with the business sector, leading to the commercialisation of research, university start-up companies, and technology transfer processes (Olssen and Peters 2005: 338). This includes privatising tasks once done in-house, a relatively new phenomenon that has yet to be evaluated fully, but which staff suggest is detrimental to both staff and students. During the recent consultation about changes to Unitec student support services, one staff member commented: “The proposal to contract out our central student services will turn Unitec services into just another service centre… Students are usually with us for years and the relationships they form with staff, and knowing that they can speak to people who know them in the real world rather than in a call centre is fundamental to students as they progress through their education with us” (TEU Unitec 2015).

It is students, their families, and communities that bear a significant burden of government underfunding.

Increasing the cost to students

Students also feel the burden in terms of rising fees and student service levies. For example, an Otago Daily Times article cites a 2.9 percent fee rise at a time when inflation is only 0.4 percent (Laughrey 2016). This is causing an indebted generation.

The long-running NZUSA survey Tertiary Income and Expenditure Survey noted, “90 percent of students have at least one form of debt. Two-thirds of those have two or more forms of debt. Credit card debt and reported loan shark use is on the rise as students try to bridge the gap between rising living costs and declining state and parental support. Students are increasingly concerned about the impact of their debt: 36 percent say it will impact on their decision to have children, while a full 70 percent say it will hurt their chances of buying a house.”

The survey report also noted, “Student support is falling quickly from both parents and the state. Now only 14.85 percent of students get financial support they can keep from mum and dad. The number of student allowance recipients has fallen by almost a quarter since 2010 due to significant Government cuts to postgraduate and middle-income allowance eligibility. A family must now earn less than half the average income to qualify. The survey reveals that for the growing majority of students who borrow to live, $176 is becoming an impossible sum to live on.” (NZUSA 2015: 3)

“For a growing number of students cost of living pressures and inadequate income support is making the best years of their life some of the most miserable. This may sound dramatic. That’s because it is. Student debt reaches $15,000,000,000 next year, and the typical student will graduate with $50,000 worth of debt. That used to be a small mortgage. That used to worry us. Now, 90 percent of students have some form of debt. Two-thirds of those have two or more forms of debt. Shamefully, 28 percent of our students now carry toxic credit card debt, up from 18 percent just four years ago.”

NZUSA president 2014

The rising individualised cost has transformed higher and further education from a public good, funded collectively, to a private good which comes at a large personal cost. (Grey and Sedgwick 2014:113).

The NZUSA survey makes it clear that student debt is a heavy burden for many and often worse for women because of lower wages.

For students, commercialisation and marketisation, and the individual cost of education, has meant deep learning is often set aside for gaining a credential as quickly as possible (Grey and Sedgwick 2014:116).

Deep learning can provide fertile ground for the innovation and creativity we need to meet social needs and address the issues we face globally and nationally. Decisions that make it harder for students to engage in this level of learning will not assist productivity for well-being.

Another effect of underfunding is the political decision to force institutions to supplement public funding with revenue from international student enrolments has left the sector exposed to the vagaries of global influences, while not actually fundamentally addressing the issue of declining public funding for the sector. This also has a detrimental effect on international students.

The Wireless (27 Jan 2016) reported on multiple cases of exploitation of international students in New Zealand. The marketing of education possibilities overseas had seen students being promised jobs as well as educational opportunities. Employers and Manufacturers Association Chief Executive Kim Campbell noted in The Wireless story (2016) that exploitation of these students is so widespread that they had asked for the labour inspectorate to be given stronger powers.

The promotion of competitiveness

One of the outcomes of a scarce funding model in which funding elements are open to competitive bidding is inter- and intra-institutional competition.

The current competitive funding models and regulatory approach in tertiary education makes it harder for the sector to operate as a whole. In some cases staff in the sector even note that they find it difficult to collaborate within their own institutions, as line management approaches see budgets being closely targeted by each unit. For example, co-supervision with another school at some institutions becomes difficult as the funding has to be ‘split’ and schools feel they are missing out on income if sharing with another section.

This competition in the tertiary education sector has created large inefficiencies; both through the significant resources put into funding models such as the PBRF process (Grey 2013:703) and through funding being wasted on major marketing budgets.

The PBRF process has high compliance and transaction costs – $52.1 million between 2006 and 2012 (Statistics NZ 2013).

Our tertiary education institutions spend in excess of $30 million annually on advertising to encourage students to enrol. We should re-direct this funding to teaching, learning, and research. Gordon et al. (2014:30) suggest, “The model of competition between TEOs, even at a very regional or local level is not the most efficient use of resources and counter to good practice.”

Removing competition in the sector would also allow increased collaboration, ultimately supporting greater innovation and creativity.

Cost cutting through workload intensification

NZWRI respondents described time pressure and work quantity as the clearest sources of work stress (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:34). We have previously described the increase in workloads in areas such as “administrative, technical, professional, and student support”, also influenced by rising student numbers (Grey, Sedgwick and Scott 2013:13). Staff also described the unrealistic expectations placed on them (McLeod and Bentley 2014:13, 29; Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:27; see also McCormack, Ovens et al. 1997:19).

A further issue is online programmes resulting in increased workload for developing the new approach. Overall the picture painted by NZWRI respondents is one of “deteriorating wellbeing, with intensifying workloads and reduced satisfaction with work” (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:3; see also Shore 2010).

This time-poorness results in a number of negative effects. One of these is reduced engagement by academics in public debate and dissent: “The [New Higher Education] environment exploits the professional drive of academic[s], keeping them focused on production of ‘research outputs’ and meeting ‘EPIs’ (Educational Performance Indicators), and away from moral goals such as equality, democracy, and sustainability” (Grey 2016:13).

In short governments have demanded more for less from the tertiary education sector; this has both immediate and long term consequences. (Grey, Sedgwick and Scott 2013:13).

Impact on the well-being of staff and students

A combination of the changes to decision-making, which shuts out staff and students, and the under-resourcing of tertiary education has a negative effect on the wellbeing of staff. It is important to consider the impacts on the wellbeing of those working and studying in tertiary education, as a healthy tertiary education community will be more innovative, creative, and productive.

In 2015 the TEU commissioned research to investigate “whitestreaming” in universities, and institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), that is, where specialist Māori positions have been changed to generalist positions and how widespread this practice might be. The project also sought to investigate the impacts of whitestreaming on Māori staff and students.

The research found that whitestreaming has taken place in all universities and ITPs and one wānanga. It has included changes to positions, but also changes to programmes and teaching spaces. Respo dents overwhelmingly found the effects to be negative, and many reported that the drivers for these changes were financial. However there were other more covert drivers also noted in the report. (Potter & Cooper 2016)

The changed environment has also affected the wellbeing of staff. NZWRI respondents highlighted the deteriorating staff health and wellbeing, including reduced morale, increased stress, issues around work-life balance, and bullying (McLeod and Bentley 2014:25). They also cited eroding job conditions including reduced job security, decreased staff levels, increased casualisation of employment conditions and fewer available jobs (McLeod and Bentley 2014:23).

Staff well-being is being affected by a dissonance between what they expect of their institutions and what the current reality is like.

In the NZWRI study, respondents make a number of comments about the effects of being over-worked. One respondent notes, “there’s little time for scholarly reflection” (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:18). Another states: “Over timetabling: very full teaching load and therefore reduced preparation and marking time and less energy available to be creative” (Bentley, McLeod and Teo 2014:55).

Our focus group participants also noted they were time poor, working more hours than paid to work and compressing tasks.

Student wellbeing is also under pressure, with increasing stress and anxiety leading to an increased use of counselling services. Victoria University (2015) notes, “approximately 46 percent of students had poor emotional wellbeing”, with “overall wellbeing… compromised by poor sleep and high levels of stress and anxiety”.

Rising tuition fees and associated debt levels influence student stress levels. Rising fees also result in a greater need for students to work concurrently with studying, and therefore affect their learning: “As more and more students balance work with university study, there are concerns that employment is interfering with students’ success at university.” (Radloff 2010:xiv).

Academic freedom is also a core tenet in tertiary education (Teichler, Arimoto and Cummings 2013); however steering has stifled academic freedom (Codd 2001:17). Tertiary education institutions require autonomy from the political, social, and economic elite of the nation in order to serve the interests of all New Zealanders. This enables academic freedom, but the current system restricts its full expression.


The reduction in funding and the drive for tighter control over the ‘production’ of outputs in tertiary education is affecting the ability of staff and students to meet the broad objectives of tertiary education (set out in Section 1). This indicates we need a new set of foundations, a new range of models of tertiary education that provide the framework we need for innovation and creativity to flourish.

Section 4: The foundations for models of tertiary education in NZ

This section provides ways to meet the broad objectives in Section 1, describes how we can support the practices of innovation and creativity detailed in Section 2, and offers ways to rectify the negative effects of the current policy and management environment described in Section 3.

We need the following foundations for tertiary education to continue to contribute to productivity for wellbeing – for individuals, whānau/families, communities and business, industry and service providers:

  1. actively progressing a Tiriti relationship;
  2. responsible autonomy for institutions and staff;
  3. diversity of provision – both across the country and within each institution;
  4. people (in context of their whānau and community) at the centre of the system; and
  5. funding models which ensure staff and students have the resources needed to flourish.

Once we agree on these foundations, we should engage staff in the sector to develop tertiary education organisation models and processes that meet the broad outcomes society needs.

Changes at the policy and regulatory level

The government, representing the diverse communities of New Zealand and accountable to them, has a central role to play in setting the broad direction of tertiary education as a public good, adopting the direction agreed by the sector and the public. As Sections 2 and 3 of our submission demonstrate, innovation and creativity and productivity for wellbeing require the right regulatory and policy framework. The foundations of the regulatory and policy changes we need are set out below.

Governments must base good policy-making on informed debate; this includes the use of evidence. The difficulty for any government and the public is predicting the future direction needed in a policy realm. It is worth noting that future trends (other than perhaps demographic change), whether these pertain to tertiary education, the labour market or other sectors are notoriously difficult to predict. Coats (n.d:2) notes, “A healthy degree of scepticism is needed when considering the future of work. Many predictions in the past have proven to be wrong.” In New Zealand there are countless examples of the failure of such attempts in the tertiary education sector.

A policy regime in which Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the foundation

The education sector is a very good place for government to begin the necessary work with iwi Māori to design a system of co-governance and decision-making that could apply as a model in other government areas. This is because this sector (including of course the tertiary education sector) has a history of reflecting on the nature of the Tiriti relationship and attempting to respond to it and to iwi Māori and Māori communities.

Government itself also has a long history of attempting to progress relationships with iwi Māori, organisations and communities. Panapa (2015:5) notes the shift in government focus in the last two decades, following the influence of Mason Durie’s ‘Māori achieving success as Māori’ analysis, where “Good intentions in recent decades…have resulted in attempts to achieve greater agency for Māori.” However like earlier researchers, she also notes the need for a “…critical reinvestment in biculturalism…” if we are to avoid perpetuating power imbalances that contribute to ongoing racism at the level of structures and institutions, which in turn impact on social wellbeing indicators for whānau Māori and iwi/hapū Māori.

One way TEU members are working to improve the Tiriti relationship within our own structures and practices is to use the five principles set out in Te Kaupapa Whaioranga to guide behaviours and ensure the “…total wellbeing for the sector, and those participating in it, is maintained.” (Grey, Sedgwick, Scott 2013: 5-6).

These principles (included as Appendix 2) express what TEU members – who daily work with students supporting their learning – have determined are most useful in guiding our thinking and decision-making in the sector. No doubt, there are other principles that could do this, and we welcome the opportunity to debate these as a sector.

However, rather than provide a specific Tiriti-based model for the sector, we instead turn to the work of Matike Mai Aotearoa (the independent working group on constitutional transformation).

After extensive kōrero with iwi and several community groups, the working group proposed six indicative models that we can use as a starting point for discussion between government, iwi, tertiary education staff and students, when looking at the foundation for tertiary education governance.

The kaupapa underlying the suggested indicative models is that Te Tiriti envisaged the continuing exercise of rangatiratanga while granting a place for kāwanatanga. It provided for what the Waitangi Tribunal recently described as “different spheres of influence” which allowed for both the independent exercise of rangatiratanga and kāwanatanga, by Māori and the Crown respectively, and the expectation that there would also be an interdependent sphere where they might make joint decisions.

We acknowledge that there is still much work to do. However, the foundations are there, both historically and in the work more recently undertaken by Matike Mai Aotearoa and others.

Additionally, examples exist in the compulsory and post-compulsory sectors of tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake in action – specifically kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, whare kura and whare wānanga. In other parts of the tertiary education sector there are also examples of partial responses to advancing tino rangatiratanga which could contribute usefully to this conversation.

TEU believes implementing the intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi will benefit all New Zealanders including all tertiary education staff and students. This is because Te Tiriti sets out the terms of an equal relationship that addresses the needs of society as a whole – both iwi Māori as tangata whenua and all others for whom New Zealand is home.

A policy regime founded on responsible autonomy for institutions

Within the broad objectives of the sector set by iwi and government (on behalf of all New Zealanders), individual institutions must have the autonomy to set their own goals without interference. If we agree for example, that institutions are places where new social and political values can emerge, where people can develop social and political critiques, and where we can produce new knowledge, then we must ensure institutions have autonomy and scholars and students have freedom. This autonomy and freedom from the interference of political, economic, and social elite is the only way to allow staff and students to challenge the world around them.

Once government and iwi have agreed on their broad objectives then institutions must engage with communities, business, industry and service providers, but they must also retain their autonomy to make decisions about their day-to-day work. This approach is set out in the Education Act 1989:

The object of the provisions of this Act relating to institutions is to give them as much independence and freedom to make academic, operational, and management decisions as is consistent with the nature of the services they provide, the efficient use of national resources, the national interest, and the demands of accountability. (Education Act S. 160).

We must balance the autonomy of the sector’s many institutions with our need to meet high-level national objectives, achieving quality education, and internationally recognised research and teaching outcomes.

Macro-level involvement in measuring outputs of individual institutions should be lightly applied; instead the sector and its various parts needs robust evaluation to allow for deeper understanding of what is working and what is not. We should balance any measurement of outputs (such as completions, graduate destinations and so forth) with acknowledgement that outcomes from tertiary education may be longer-term and that direct correlations may be difficult to measure.

We should continue to evaluate tertiary education outputs but we need to remove the single focus on economic efficiency.

Governments and their agencies need to abandon policy evidence based solely on outputs that they can measure or count.

The autonomy of each institution should sits within a system predicated on collaboration and focused on overall public good outcomes. We should not use blunt auditing tools to determine funding because they are unable to capture the nuances of each institution’s work.

We should replace performance-based models of funding with a high trust model for public tertiary institutions, centred on peer reviewing to ensure quality provision and audited annual report for public accountability.

A policy regime to ensure diversity of provision

The sector, working alongside government/iwi and stakeholders, needs to agree on a sustainable level of generalisation and specialisation amongst providers.

Government and iwi need to oversee the system because market models cannot achieve equity of access or outcomes for New Zealand’s diverse communities.

The true value of tertiary education for New Zealand now and into the future can only be met by an integrated system that people can access across their lifetimes, and would include a full range of teaching and learning spaces:

  1. Wānanga
  2. ITPs
  3. Universities
  4. Adult and community education
  5. Workplace learning
  6. Informal learning

We need to reach an agreement about the location of institutions. Fostering a multi-layered system that maintains diversity of types of provider, provision and teaching/learning/research/student support is the best way of ensuring we meet the diverse needs of learners, their whānau/family, as well as the needs of business and society. Such an approach also prepares our society for a future that is largely unknown.

People should be able to participate easily in a base level of education and training that is able to be accessible in their local region. Each region should also be able to provide specialist courses and programmes that reflect their regional development needs (including iwi and hapū strategic goals and development plans). This recognises that is that learners are part of whanau, families, iwi, and communities, and that their best learning will allow them to access the appropriate support networks and social capital to thrive as learners.

A policy regime that puts people at the centre

Teaching, learning, and research are human services. As such, models that ensure people are at the centre will achieve innovation and creativity to address New Zealand’s scientific, vocational, human, and environmental needs. This includes recognising the place of staff and their union in any debates and discussions on how to achieve quality educational outcomes.

The system needs to recognise that staff unions as industrial and professional bodies have a vital role to play in the sector – as advocates for the sector itself and for staff, students and communities. Unions also have an important social justice role, which is fundamentally about redressing inequity and challenging dominant ideologies that threaten social, environmental, cultural and economic wellbeing for all. In the tertiary education sector this social justice approach has included advocacy for the Living Wage for low-paid staff as well as playing an active role in voicing the negative effects of free trade agreements such as the TPPA.

A policy regime to support the workforce and student body

The tertiary education sector has never been averse to responding and adapting to changing needs. It is a sector focused on the transformative impact of gaining and using knowledge and skills (see Section 2). Unfortunately, it is also a sector particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of political influence. This has led to a cycle of change over the past two decades that has forced the sector to focus on achieving a narrow range of economic outputs. The focus has come at the expense of the broader outcomes outlined in the Education Act 1989 and the first Tertiary Education Strategy (see Section 3). Whilst some of the policy decisions the sector has been required to implement have been well intended, others have been purely ideological (for example slashing of adult and community education funding in 2009) or poorly considered (for example, student loan availability for post-graduate students).

There is a sense amongst those working in the sector that a culture of ‘change for the sake of change’ has become the norm. Those working and studying in tertiary education have borne the impact of two decades of top-down changes. This has left them with little time for genuine innovation and creativity in their own sector. Added to this, there has been little time for evaluation of government imposed changes (nor any real will to do this), which means little is known about what is working and why and what is not and why.

Therefore, TEU advocates for thought and consideration of what policies, regulation, funding, and processes currently allow us to reach our objectives before pursuing further change.

As described in Section 3, inadequate funding has affected the well-being of staff and students, as well as educational outcomes. TEU believes we need to use general taxation fund post-compulsory education and training (be that in formal institutions, workplaces, or community learning spaces). The debate is what level of funding we need to support staff and students and ensure quality teaching and learning.

Changes within TEIs to fully enable innovation and creativity

Once the structures are right, and the policy, regulatory, and the government’s funding regime focuses on the broad objectives of tertiary education, we need a range of changes at the institutional level.

Institutional actions to provide responsible autonomy for staff and students

The majority of TEI council appointments now come from outside the education sector. To ensure robust, education-focused decision making, a return to a broad representative model that includes staff, students and community voices is essential. First-hand knowledge of the tertiary education system can only enhance decision-making:

Higher-education teaching personnel should have the right and opportunity, without discrimination of any kind, according to their abilities, to take part in the governing bodies and to criticise the functioning of higher education institutions, including their own, while respecting the right of other sections of the academic community to participate, and they should also have the right to elect a majority of representatives to academic bodies within the higher education institution. (UNESCO 1997: Section VI (B)

…while systems for using the student voice may be in place, well-functioning systems require an organisation to have a culture that values students’ voice, so that learners – regardless of the number of representatives and their level of experience – feel able and comfortable to have input into the governance arrangements of the organisation. (Alkema et al 2013: 9)

As professionals, staff will continue to work closely with iwi and hapū, communities, industry, business, and service providers to ensure their courses and programmes reflect the needs and aspirations of these stakeholders. However, decisions about what we teach and research and how this takes place should sit with academic staff. Equally, general staff are the professionals who are equipped with the skills and knowledge to design and deliver the best services and systems to support students, staff and the institution, and should have the autonomy to do so.

In order to protect one of the core functions of the academic community – to act as the critic and conscience of society – it is essential that the profession maintains the autonomy to draw its borders… Academics must be able to defend the boundaries of their profession, even where they clash with institutional strategic plans and government objectives.

Staff need good systems that recognise their professional knowledge and expertise and facilitate them sharing that knowledge in daily decision-making.

As professionals, staff in the tertiary education sector have the knowledge and capacity to establish good processes to ensure accountability for the quality of their work.

Historically in academia, this has been peer review processes which rely on systems of collegial critique. Staff working in student and learning support and other services within institutions can also (as experts in their respective areas) contribute to developing accountability systems for their work.

This includes formal involvement of the union in all levels of decision-making and institutional policy development as the strongest collective professional voice in tertiary education.

We need to recognise in legislation that staff and students should hold formal positions on councils. We present a number of core principles which must underpin decisions about tertiary education governance – from the development of nation-wide tertiary education strategies to the composition of councils, academic boards and departmental decision-making bodies.

  1. Diversity is necessary for the health of the tertiary education sector, including diversity between and inside governance bodies and institutions themselves.
  2. Tertiary education institutions require autonomy from the political, social, and economic elite of the nation in order to serve the interests of all New Zealanders. Institutional autonomy enables the academic freedom that is crucial to economic, social, scientific, and human discovery.
  3. Including staff, student, and community representation in the governance bodies of the tertiary education sector will ensure educational and pedagogical decisions will be at the centre of decision-making.
  4. Good decision-making in the tertiary education sector requires sound, open, and on-going input from those who work and study in the tertiary education sector.
  5. Staff, student, and community involvement in tertiary education decision-making is necessary in order for these groups to have confidence in the decisions made.

Institutional actions to ensure diversity of provision

As well as having a diversity of institutions in New Zealand, the diversity of learners, communities, and businesses means we need a diversity of approaches in teaching and supporting students. We cannot reduce education cannot to a one-size-fits all model. We can achieve innovative teaching and learning practices best through a combination of new technologies and traditional modes of delivery.

Teaching, learning and delivery appear to be evolving in response to technological change, but approaches to education that regard technology instrumentally – as a tool which enables better teaching and learning – offer the clearest way forward. From the invention of the quill to the printing press and more recently, the internet, academics, education providers and their students have been at the forefront of developing and adopting new modes of communicating, teaching, learning and sharing information.

Many of these technologies have been disruptive, displacing previously dominant technology, and have changed the way we learn for the better. Today’s concern is that we may adopt disruptive technologies with too little consideration of their impact on education, as digital technology and ICTs lead the way and shape how a course or class is offered, rather than being used instrumentally in achieving the best learning and teaching outcomes.

Sustaining technologies enhance the performance of established technologies:

What all sustaining technologies have in common is that they improve the performance of established products…Disruptive technologies bring to market a very different value proposition than had been available previously… (Christensen, 1997: xv).

Therefore, we need to consider the potentially negative impacts of all disruptive technologies, while increasing the use of sustaining technologies.

Specialised student support services are a crucial to ensuring our communities can access and participation in tertiary education.

Providing a range of courses and programmes and making ‘staircasing’ within or between providers easy for students gives them a better chance learn the breadth of skills and knowledge they might need in the future.

For example, in the provision of education to NEETs (young people not in employment, education, or training) Gordon et al. (2014:32) recommend widening the focus of what we teach and assess:

  1. Flexibility in funding and EPIs to ensure that Youth Guarantee Funding focuses on students’ needs not on the ease of measuring, evaluating, or administering the scheme.
  2. Recognising that life skills, social connectedness, and building self-esteem in this group of young people is crucial if they are to move into further training or education, to be productive workers, and to fully contribute to their communities as citizens.

Gordon et al. (2014:33) also note “There needs to be a way in which policy and funding regimes acknowledge the promotion of social skills as vital elements of individual success, and to promote citizenship and employability”.

Another example of where specialised support is crucial is in improving Māori student achievement (See Potter and Cooper 2016).

Institutional approaches to supporting the workforce and students

To maintain and develop diverse provision, we need to provide resources to institutions. The constrained funding environment the sector operates within means staff in some institutions often struggle to get basic resources they need for their work. Up-to-date technology; basic classroom resources; technical support; teaching and learning support; and tagged funds available for professional development for all staff are just some of the list of necessities needed so that staff can do their jobs, let alone in innovative and creative ways.

If we view tertiary education holistically and we remove competitive funding models, we can consider approaches such as cross-subsidisation of programmes and joint qualifications. Whilst some institutions have been able to run (for example) joint qualifications successfully, funding and other policies hamper their set-up and implementation.


Tertiary education staff know that the direction we want for tertiary education – one which gives our institutions distance from the state and economy via increased taxpayer contributions – runs counter to the ideological underpinnings of current policy.

As such, we think it is crucial for the nation, for students, families, communities, staff, and employers, that we debate and accept first the objectives that guide tertiary education. Once we agree on those, staff should develop the models and processes we need to meet the broad outcomes society needs.

Appendix 1: Objects and Tiriti relationship commitments of the Tertiary Education Union

3.            Objects

The objects of the union shall include:

3.1       the advancement of tertiary and further education, teaching and research and of education in general;

3.2       the maintenance, promotion, and advancement of professional, teaching, and academic standards within Aotearoa New Zealand tertiary and further education and training institutions;

3.3       the furthering and safeguarding of the interests of the members of the union in any way which seems to the union necessary or desirable;

3.4       the promotion and protection of the interests of the members in appropriate cases including personal grievances, industrial disputes, or industrial matters;

3.5       the furthering of the just concerns and rights of tertiary education staff, employees, and students and general participation in the activity of tertiary institutions and other agencies of education and training;

3.6       the advancement of academic freedom;

3.7       the advancement of all workers’ rights in society;

3.8       the safeguarding of the rights of Māori members, te uepū, and the meeting of the union’s responsibilities to wider Māori communities through the promotion of and adherence to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, in particular by supporting Māori staff in achieving their objectives within the union, tertiary and further education and training institutions, the union movement, and the wider community;

3.9       the commitment to and promotion of gender equity and equal employment opportunities for staff in tertiary and further education;

3.10     the promotion of equal educational opportunities in further and tertiary education;

3.11     the encouragement of good management and community governance in tertiary education institutions;

3.12     the establishment, by affiliation and other methods, of closer relations between the tertiary and further education staff of Aotearoa New Zealand and those in other parts of the world;

3.13     the establishment, by affiliation and other methods, of closer relations between the tertiary and further education staff of Aotearoa New Zealand and workers in other sectors or industries, nationally and internationally;

3.14     affiliation, association, or cooperation with any other organisation having objects or interests similar to or associated with the objects of the union for the pursuit of any common objects or interests;

3.15     the formulation and dissemination of the views of members by the holding of regular meetings of branches and by issuing such publications as are from time to time considered desirable;

3.16     such other objects as are ancillary or related to the objects stated above.

4.         Te Tiriti o Waitangi

4.1       Te Tiriti o Waitangi shall be implemented in the policies and practices of the union and a copy of Te Tiriti o Waitangi shall be appended to these rules in schedule C.

4.2       The council shall monitor the implementation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and ensure that the union is fulfilling its obligations to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

4.3       Conflict in policies, priorities, and/or processes shall be resolved by negotiation between an equal number of representatives of tāngata Māori and Pākehā.

Appendix 2: The five principles of Te Kaupapa Whaioranga

Principle 1: Mana atua, mana tangata

This principle demands that all decisions being made by and for the sector ensures whaioranga for those who participate in the sector – the total wellbeing of all staff and students. Decision-making must be based in whakanui; should foster kōtahitanga; and promote ōritetanga. That is, decision-making must be based in respect for oneself and others; unity and inclusiveness; and attitudes and processes that promote equity, equality, and democracy.

Principle 2: Mana whenua

This principle demands that decisions being made by and for the sector foster ahikā – the interrelation of people and the land, including whether such decisions support a sense of tūrangawaewae for all individuals and groups, fostering a sense of place and belonging. The outcomes of decision-making must result in the creation of engaging work and study environments which in turn foster te taiao – innovation and creativity.

Principle 3: Mana motuhake

This principle demands that decisions being made by and for the sector foster a sense of tino rangatiratanga. In fostering this leadership, self-determination and responsible autonomy, it is crucial that all staff and students in the sector will have the opportunity for whakamana in all aspects of their work – they must have authority, power, and influence over this work. Added to this, all decisions being made by and for the sector must foster whakahaere – the enactment of the role of critic and conscience in society, as set out in the Education Act 1989.

Principle 4: Ahu Kāwanatanga

This principle demands that decisions being made by and for the sector encourages mahi tahi – in all aspects of their work, staff and students must be able to develop collaborative approaches and collective contributions.

Principle 5: Mana Tiriti

This principle demands that decisions being made by and for the sector foster the partnership relationship as described in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including tikanga, and āhuatanga Māori – Māori customs and protocols and ways of being and doing. Daily practices, institutional rules, and government policy must foster the legislative requirements that pertain to participation, protection and partnership.

The principles have been used to review our current tertiary education system, to reveal its shortcomings, and to give us the direction for a new path for the sector that will work for current and future generation of New Zealanders. We are confident that by using these principles, we have created a blueprint for change that can guide a national debate aimed at rebuilding the foundations of our public tertiary education system.



“For a growing number of students cost of living

pressures and inadequate income support is making the best years of

their life some of the most miserable.

This may sound dramatic. That’s because it is.

Student debt reaches $15,000,000,000 next year, and the typical student will graduate with $50,000 worth of debt. That used to be a small mortgage. That used to worry us. Now, 90 percent of students have some form of debt. Two-thirds of those have two or more forms of debt. Shamefully, 28 per cent of our students now carry toxic credit card debt, up from 18 percent just four years ago.” NZUSA president 2014

In 2015 the TEU commissioned research to investigate “whitestreaming” in universities, and institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), that is, where specialist Māori positions have been changed to generalist positions and how widespread this practice might be. The project also sought to investigate the impacts of whitestreaming on Māori staff and students.


The research found that whitestreaming has taken place in all universities and ITPs and one wānanga. It has included changes to positions, but also changes to programmes and teaching spaces. Respo dents overwhelmingly found the effects to be negative, and many reported that the drivers for these changes were financial. However there were other more covert drivers also noted in the report. (Potter & Cooper 2016)



  1. Refer to Appendix 1 of this submission
  2. Part 13 Education Act 1989
  3. We use the term ‘organisational model’ in preference to ‘business model’ as this better reflects the purpose of tertiary education institutions.
  4. See for example:  Chauvel & Rean (2012); Curtis, Honey, Kelly, Kool, Lualua-Aati, Nepia, Poole, Ruka & Wikaire (2012); Greenwood & Te Aika (2008); May (2009); McMurchy-Pilkington (2009); Mlcek, Aranga, McGarvey, Mika, Rangihau, Shepherd, Taipeti, Temara & Timutimu (2009); Phillips & Mitchell (2010); Ross (2010); Tahau-Hodges (2010); Taurere (2010); Van der Meer, Scott & Neha (2010); White, Oxenham, Tahana, Williams & Matthews (2008); Wilke (2010); and Williams (2011).
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