Two years ago news headlines highlighted the pressure staff in tertiary
education were under to elevate grades, and it seems pressures are still
high in the sector.
Research being released on May Day will show that concerns around increased
workload, academic freedom, and a decline in both staff and student
wellbeing remaining as key issues impacting those in the sector.
Key findings of the work by Drs Sarah Proctor Thomson and Charles Sedgwick
include a decline in academic autonomy, a closing down of collegial
structures, a decline in standards accompanying a pressure for students to
pass, and the negative impact on wellbeing for both staff and students.
This survey of public tertiary education sector staff in 2018 was
specifically designed to gather up-to-date data on the ways in which
changing systemic and institutional pressures within the tertiary education
sector in Aotearoa were shaping the experience of staff and the teaching
and learning conditions of students.
The survey was informed by previous TEU surveys run in 2013 and 2016, and
constructed to provide a benchmark for analyses of worker experiences and
conditions in the future. This long-term focus is important because it
helps to identify how teaching and learning at the highest level is shaped
by enduring institutional issues, the vicissitudes of political life and
Two questionnaires were developed to reflect the different purposes,
functions and work organisation of academic and general staff.
Between April and June 2018 the researchers gathered surveys from almost
2,000 academic and just over 1,000 general staff working in the tertiary
education sector. Respondents were drawn from all universities (56.4% of
sample), all Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) (39.1% of
sample), all wānanga (2.9% of sample), and a smaller group of private
training enterprises, REAP and crown research centres (1.5% of sample).
The analysis has produced a number of key findings which include the
– Decline in academic autonomy in both teaching and research
– Closing down of democratic and collegial structures with direct input
roles for staff
– Increasing workloads and associated impacts upon health and well being
– Decline in standards with pressure to pass
– Adverse impacts upon student learning and their health and wellbeing.
According to TEU President Michael Gilchrist, “… this report details the
ways in which our current, market based tertiary education system
undermines and obstructs the expression of professional values in the
sector. Most of all, it reveals that human relationships are at the heart
of tertiary education. It shows us how we can support those relationships
and the values they embody and importantly exposes changes that are
mandatory if the full transformational potential of tertiary education is
to be realised.”
Anyone interested in hearing more about the research can join the TEU for
the launch on Facebook.