TEU National Secretary Sandra Grey reflects on what Aotearoa needs from tertiary education to build back better from the impacts of Covid-19 and what the sector needs of the Government to be in the right place to respond.

The tertiary education sector needs considerable investment and innovative direction to ensure a sustainable and equitable sector for all.

And we need everyone working in the sector to speak up for a more diversified, resilient, and sustainable sector for all New Zealanders.

The Labour Government has promised a targeted approach to additional spending on tertiary education, with a focus on areas that are deemed critical for the country's economic recovery from Covid-19, including free apprenticeships, spending on targeted areas of vocational training, and the completion of the reform of the vocational education system.

While TEU applauds spending on tertiary education in building-back from Covid-19, the focus on vocational education and training does not go far enough to build back better for all New Zealanders, or in protecting the sector both in the short-term and for future generations.

Building back better certainly requires that we build a strong workforce, and that we enable our school leavers, mature students and life-long learners to train, re-train and upskill to support our social and economic recovery from Covid-19. But to truly build back better for all New Zealanders, TEU believes there must also be an improved focus on funding, freedom and fairness.

In the months building up to the General Election, TEU members took action and made their voice heard in support of our TEU General Election 2020 pledges to keep tertiary education public and to ensure equitable workplaces in our sector.

Over the same period, a spot-light was thrown on the issue of institutional racism in our sector, during which time TEU called for a collaborative sector-wide approach needed to address racism.

Later, the issue of academic freedom once again came to the fore. And on Friday, at the Voices of Tertiary Education Forum, we brought sector leaders together to discuss the future of internationalisation and how to address funding shortfalls for greater sustainability.

TEU members from Invercargill to Kaitaia need to pick up the tight 5 and keep pushing for improved funding, freedom and fairness,

The only way to get more for learners, communities, and employers is to keep sharing our key pledges and priorities in pursuit of keeping quality tertiary education public, sustainable and resilient, and ensuring equitable workplaces across our sector.

It is only through a well-funded, equitable model of tertiary education that we can continue to uphold the integrity of the sector and improve education outcomes for students, while playing a vital role in our social and economic recovery from Covid-19.