1 May 2019
On 1 May the Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi (TEU) will release
the findings of the State of the Public Tertiary Education Sector Survey.
The report reveals serious concerns about a decline in student support
services in the tertiary education sector; increased pressures on staff to
admit students into courses they are not ready for; pressure to elevate
grades to ensure students pass; and, a decline in wellbeing as staff deal
with rising workloads and work/life conflict.
Commissioned by TEU, and written by independent researchers Drs Sarah
Proctor-Thomson and Charles Sedgwick, the report builds on previous surveys
run in 2013 and 2016. It tracks staff’s experience of working in the sector
and how teaching, learning, and research is being affected by a number of
ongoing issues and concerns.
Almost 2,000 academic and just over 1,000 general staff working in
universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, wānanga, and other
sites in the tertiary education sector completed the survey.
Proctor-Thomson and Sedgwick outline a continuing 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 in recent years.
The majority of staff surveyed reported that their level of satisfaction
had gotten worse or much worse over the last three years as a result of
deteriorating working conditions in terms of workload, management and
According to Proctor-Thomson and Sedgwick:
“The core of what is apparent in this survey is two sets of values at war
with each other. One set generated at a high level by government policy,
funding arrangements and a competitive framework and institutional response
to this environment. The other value set embodies those aspects of the job
by which staff in units and departments engaged with teaching and learning.
The clash between these sets of values is manifest in many of the changing
circumstances of teaching and learning canvassed in this survey”.
While the survey found that ‘effective teaching, engaging with students and
collegial and supportive relationships’ were all rated in the top five
values of staff working in tertiary education, the results also suggest
that it is these very values that are most at risk under the current
According to TEU President Michael Gilchrist:
The last three surveys show the sector relying to an ever increasing extent
on the goodwill and dedication of staff. The commitment of staff to the
core values of teaching, learning and research are the lifeblood of the
sector. But we cannot keep going to that well.
Three quarters of academics surveyed were not confident to promote their
career of choice. Only one quarter would recommend or strongly recommend an
academic career to others. Steps have to be taken to support staff
wellbeing through realistic workloads, more professional autonomy, less
managerial monitoring and compliance, better job security and more time to
invest in all aspects of the teaching relationship.
The report also sets out the causes of the strained working and learning
According to Proctor-Thomson and Sedgwick, the fundamental orientation of
the tertiary education sector needs to change. The sector needs to turn
away from a competitive, marketised model of business, to a recognition of
the value of tertiary education to society and its ability to transform the
lives of New Zealanders.
TEU will be releasing changes needed to ensure that tertiary education in
New Zealand once again works for all students, staff, and communities,
providing life-changing opportunities for all who take part. The changes
• parliament receiving reports annually on the use of casual and fixed-term
• the removal of all performance-based funding and work within the sector
• all collective agreements having salary scales in them for all staff
• training for all staff on academic freedom and the enactment of Te Tiriti
o Waitangi commitments
The State of the Public Tertiary Education Sector Survey, 2018,
will be officially released 1 May 2019.
For a copy of the report please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Gilchrist, Te Tumu Whakarae National President TEU, 027 8994256
Sarah Proctor-Thomson, NMIT and co-author of the State of the Public
Tertiary Education Sector, 021 027 41092