Education Minister, Chris Hipkins last week led the government in a vote against proposals to give students and staff a stronger say in decisions affecting their place of study and work.
During a debate on the Minister’s plans to change the law so all students and staff have at least one seat each on all tertiary education councils, all Labour and New Zealand First MPs voted down amendments that would have increased representation to two seats each.
The amendments were tabled by Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Before the debate in Parliament, TEU national president, Sandra Grey, and president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, Jonathan Gee presented Chlöe Swarbrick with a petition signed by close to one thousand students and staff backing her amendment.
The vast majority of submissions to the earlier Select Committee stage of the legislative process, during which it was closely scrutinised by MPs, also backed the change.
Labour, National and New Zealand First MPs on the Select Committee chose to ignore the evidence presented to them about why increased representation for students and staff would benefit the sector.
Similarly, the Minister ignored the requests of students and staff when the Bill made it back to Parliament for its final stages.
The Bill received Royal Assent and passed into statute on 23 October. Attention now turns to making sure each institution’s council opts to go beyond the legislation and appoint at least two students and two staff.
“To be clear, the legislation that was passed is a step forward. Former National Minister Steven Joyce removed student and staff seats on councils with disastrous consequences, and Labour was bold enough to reverse this. However, Chris Hipkins simply did not go far enough.
“Staff working in the sector were excited when this government took power, thinking it would finally recognise the huge benefits that come from giving them a strong say in the decisions that affect their work and their professions – they are the experts after all. However, this week they have had to process the disappointment of watching Labour and New Zealand First MPs vote against plans to give them a stronger voice.”