MPs must vote to give students and staff a strong voice

Posted By TEU on Oct 16, 2018 | 2 comments

Tertiary Education Union (TEU) national president Sandra Grey and NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) president Jonathan Gee today welcomed a new amendment to the Education Amendment Bill tabled by Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick that, if passed, will increase student and staff representation on tertiary education councils.

“It is vital that MPs vote to pass this amendment and restore a strong voice for student and staff on tertiary education institution councils. I have just returned from Parliament where I handed over a petition with 900 signatures from tertiary staff members to Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick urging parliament to legislate for two staff and two student representatives on every polytechnic and university council,” said Sandra Grey.

“Students and staff have critical knowledge that must be considered as part of the strategic planning of our public tertiary education institutions. They have expertise and experiences of the day-to-day running of our public institutions that can ensure that tertiary education institutions remain focused on their core responsibilities – to deliver benefits to the public through quality teaching and research.”

The previous National-led government scrapped student and staff representation on polytechnic and university councils. Steven Joyce’s decision to remove staff from these councils as part of his push to make tertiary education institutions more like businesses in their operations has contributed to a massive decline in the input that staff could make to decision-making at their place of work.

“Since coming into office, the new government has recognised the importance of student and staff expertise in strategic decision-making in the tertiary education sector. The TEU and NZUSA applaud this commitment to hearing the staff and student voice in decision-making and urges MPs to support the new amendment,” said Jonathan Gee.

International evidence supports staff having a much greater say in the decisions that affect their places of work. Corporate boards internationally are, for example, increasingly including staff representatives.

“The Education Amendment Bill is a good step to addressing the lack of a student and staff voice in decison-making. One more step is now needed to ensure a minimum of two student and two staff representatives on all tertiary education institution councils,” he said.

“Increasing the overall size of councils will also help include the more diverse range of voices that is needed to govern our universities and polytechnics, such as increasing gender diversity and ensuring Māori representation.”

For more information

  • TEU national president Sandra Grey, 021 844 176
  • NZ USA president Jonathan Gee, 021 207 4132
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  1. Some very poor decisions have been made in recent years by councils heavily weighted, by the National Government, toward appointees from the business community. These decisions have included rash capital investments, foolish outsourcing and IT system changes, over-enthusiasm for online learning options and downgrading of academic and general staff roles. With institutional mergers on the horizon risks in these areas can only be heightened. But they are all areas where greater staff and student input can make a a positive difference. Chloe Swarbricks amendment provides for the minimum level of staff and student representation required to make a difference and help ensure wiser decisions in the future. Let’s make sure our MPs – particularly MPs from the coalition government – understand the importance of this step toward rebuilding a quality, accessible, public tertiary education system.

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  2. By rejecting Chlöe Swarbrick’s laudable amendment to increase staff and student representation on tertiary councils the Minister of Education has shown that he is still firmly joined at the hip to his neoliberal evil twin. His decision to oppose greater representation on councils as unnecessary works against the express desire of countless staff and students to restore our tertiary institutions as living communities which play a vital role in educating the next generation to become active citizens in a participatory democracy.

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