Tertiary Update – Vol 23 No 6
This week Tertiary Update reviews the major speeches of the 2019 Annual
Conference so that all members have a chance to engage with our largest
democratic meeting. With 200 delegates, guests, and staff in attendance the
conference was our biggest yet.
Address of the National President, Michael Gilchrist, to TEU’s 2019
The TEU Annual Conference 2019 this week marks our tenth year together, and
our tenth conference as the Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi.
Our conference theme is ngā piki, ngā heke – we hold together, we endure,
through good times and bad, through ups and downs.
We have had the downs. For most of the history of this union a national-led
government has done everything it can to break down the fabric of tertiary
education through imposing a competitive market on the sector, making
institutions fight for an ever decreasing pool of funds.
Staff and students have suffered. Good commercial results are almost always
poor educational results, because commercial results come from getting
students enrolled to gain the income from their fees and then getting them
through courses to show the institution is performing.
The student teacher relationship, the place where all the good stuff
happens, is pushed to one side.
And that’s only part of the problem. I don’t need to tell you that we have
had some bad times but I can’t resist sharing one story.
Last week I was on a university campus and I overheard a conversation
(okay, I eavesdropped on a conversation) between two administrative staff
behind a reception desk that summed up the situation in an almost uncanny
One was coughing, quite persistently. The other remarked on it and the
first said, ‘every so often hope springs up in me that it will get worse,
that this cough will get bad enough that I will be really sick and won’t
have to come into work. But it never does.’ Yes the other agreed, ‘Work is
chaos.’ And here they were clearly be talking about restructuring. ‘You get
through one chaos and then there is another. It is just chaos after chaos.’
After a moment the first one said, good humouredly, ‘How bad is that? When
you hope that you are going to be sick just so you don’t have to come into
work.’And I thought that’s pretty bad. But this is just what the State of
the Public Tertiary Sector survey – an outstanding piece of research by Dr
Sarah Proctor-Thomson and Charles Sedgwick – told us.
Not only have working conditions continued to deteriorate, not only has
staff satisfaction continued to decline and stress levels continued to
rise, but the survey also shows the other side of the coin – that staff
have an extraordinary capacity to keep giving, to keep coming to work (in
the case I’ve just spoken with even when they have ‘as and when required’
sick leave in their agreement), because they won’t let their students or
colleagues down. Because the ethos of education, of caring, and serving is
in our blood.
As Sarah and Charles put it, our work is the lifeblood of the system. But
the survey also found that less than a quarter of academics would’
recommend an academic career to others. So we cannot keep going to that
Are there good times? Well, it is clear we now have a government that is
much more sympathetic to the plight of the tertiary education sector, and
much more willing to engage with the experts in the sector – the general
staff, the academics, researchers, tutors and students.
However, reforms to education in New Zealand will take time. They will not
happen overnight. It is up to us to ensure the Government delivers on what
they have proposed, and what they have promised.
Key to this is ensuring we – the experts – are at the table. It is crucial
that we are heard when decisions that have an impact on the sector are
made, and that teaching and education, and the needs of staff and students
are central to those decisions.
We must name the issues we face and articulate the impact these issues have
on both staff and students, and we must do so collectively and with a sense
of urgency. This is particularly important during periods of change,
disruption, and instability.
So we need to keep fighting for change in the longer term – but we also
need to fight for stability in the short term, particularly in the ITP
sector. Stability in this area will only lead to more strength and
stability across the wider sector.
I am reminded of a whakataukī offered by a colleague at the inaugural TEU
Ko te pae tata, whakamaua, kia tīnā, Ko te pae tawhiti, whaia, kia tata |
Secure the horizons that are close to hand and pursue the more distant
horizons so that they may become close.
Over the last ten years we have achieved so much. Together we have shown
that no horizon is too far for those who are well prepared.
In particular I want to highlight three things we have achieved. We have
developed Te Koeke Tiriti as a framework to advance our TEU Tiriti
relationship. We called on this framework as a response to the 15 March
terror attacks in Christchurch. We called on its power of inclusion for all
tauiwi and the dignity that it gives us in being a treaty partner.
Second, we have developed confidence in our role as experts in our field.
We know that in tertiary education our voice matters.
We have learned to campaign and we have done so tremendously well. We were
responsible for 2000 submissions for the Keep It Public campaign. We will
need these kinds of collective efforts as the reform of education moves
We have prepared well and we have invested in our future, but in order to
sustain, we must grow.
We need to move forward with a reinvigorated focus on community. This means
diversity and solidarity, at the level of the institution, the sector, the
region and the country.
And we need to practice inclusiveness in a determined way to see our union
grow, and to increase the strength we can find in numbers and in
solidarity. This is about recruitment, but also about action within
branches. We need comprehensive systems to identify and follow up on new
recruitments. We have to work together to make face-to-face connections.
As we look forward to another ten years of the Tertiary Education Union Te
Hautū Kahurangi, we should all be proud of everything we have achieved
together as a union. There will be many challenges ahead, but we are well
prepared, and we move forward driven by the successes of our first ten
Also in the Tertiary Update this week:
- National Secretary’s Report
- Sending out an SOS – 130 take the pledge so far
- Awhi atu, awhi mai – Fighting Islamophobia, hate, and racism
- From the conference floor and beyond
- Government’s climate change plan does not go far enough
- TEU Awards 2019
Auckland Uni vice chancellor: Still no evidence of white supremacist claims – RNZ
Also on May 17, TEU members will be celebrating IDAHOBIT day
Budget 2019: Government pours $95 million over four years into teaching resources –Stuff
Talking TEU – launch of the TEU’s new website – Facebook