Major changes are afoot in the tertiary education sector so the timing of the 2019 Voices of the Sector Forum could not be better.

Today, 13 August, 100 leaders from the tertiary education sector, business, iwi, and community meet at the University of Waikato to debate what’s needed to ensure that the sector meets society's needs and provides sustainability of institutions.

NZUSA President James Ranstead says students are keen to see a refocusing of the tertiary education sector on teaching and learning.

“Sadly many students feel that institutions and policy-makers see them as revenue. This means decisions being made which cut courses and services that are meant to foster quality learning.”

Ranstead says the government has taken a step forward with the decision to unify the vocational education sector, and we hope that tomorrow’s forum will reflect the refocussing on collaboration and a systems-wide approach to ensuring strong quality and accessible education.

NZTEU President Michael Gilchrist notes that two forums run last year focused on the need to review the funding mechanisms.

“While the Minister of Education has set out clearly the need to review the funding model, there is no firm plan of how this will be done or the principles for setting out a funding system.”

The staff, students, iwi, and business leaders in the room tomorrow need to really get a firm sense of what tertiary education is for and what funding is needed to deliver, says Gilchrist.

“For TEU members, general, allied and academic – who are in the laboratories, workshops, lecture theatres, libraries, and workplaces with students – education is a public good that everyone benefits from.

You only need to think about an average day to see how important tertiary education is to us. You get clean drinking water because of scientists and engineers who trained in a university, polytechnic, or wananga;a nice cup of coffee because of baristas who did in-work training; safe cars because of mechanics who got their start as an apprentice in the tertiary education sector or at a polytechnic.”

Gilchrist says “Now is the time for us all to agree on a funding model that delivers on that public good.”