Hau Taki Haere Tertiary Update Vol 24, No 7

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced New Zealand will move from COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 at 11.59 pm on Monday April 27. The country will stay in Alert Level 3 for two weeks before a further review and Alert Level decision on May 11.

While New Zealand remains at Alert Level 4 for another week, the Ministry of Education has released more detailed guidelines on what Alert Level 3 will mean for the tertiary education sector.

The guidelines indicate all teaching and other activities should be done remotely wherever possible. However, where it is not possible to deliver teaching online, some facilities may remain open (e.g. for research, post-graduate teaching, lab/workshops, or noho-based delivery). Alert Level 3 guidelines state that where such teaching cannot be delivered online, classes must be limited to 10 people or less.

Alert Level 3 restrictions therefore mean tertiary education providers will remain largely closed for at least another three weeks, with the bulk of tertiary education and services continuing online.

TEU President Michael Gilchrist welcomed the news that the country is making steady and relatively speedy progress toward eliminating COVID 19 but noted that each level down brings fresh challenges for TEU members, adding to those they are already managing.

‘We are hearing from members that wellbeing and workload are the two areas of greatest concern. It is clear that Level 3 will bring added pressures in these areas – some more subtle than before. For example, some members will find it difficult to judge when they will be safe at work and will be weighing safety considerations against the desire to do their best for their families and their students’.

Gilchrist continued, ‘Workloads have already risen significantly in most cases, for academics and general/allied/professional staff, and this tendency seems likely to continue. Now there may be demands for two forms of delivery, on-line and on-campus, reflecting the differing needs of students. Issues around maintaining quality in courses are becoming more acute as questions around adequate assessment processes start to become more pressing’.

Cost cutting is beginning to emerge as a pressure as well, with employers looking to shift the work of fixed term and casual staff to permanent staff wherever possible.

TEU has spoken with the Tertiary Education Commission about the pressures staff are facing and will be providing best-practice advice for Level-3. There is also work being done on a national approach to health and safety, with TEU developing that guidance with WorkSafe.

One crucial way members can support this work is by responding to our survey on Level-3 responses in the sector.

Gilchrist says, ‘The survey sent yesterday morning had over 500 responses within a few hours, which is brilliant  – but the bigger the sample size the more powerful our campaigning can be, in a number of different ways. We also need feedback from members on the TEC/MoE guidelines, as well as on any concerns coming up for members in this continually changing landscape’.

Also in this update:

·        Te Hautū Kahurangi mourns the passing of Dr Huirangi Waikerepuru

·        Welcoming Dr Sandra Grey as TEU national secretary

·        TEU to farewell national women’s officer, Suzanne McNabb

·        Why increasing student debt is not a support package

·        Building upon our Pasifika strengths in the community

Other Stories:

·        WDC Design Group excited about the future of Vocational Education - TEC

·        More needed for learners and their families - TEU

·        Fees-free online learning launched for Northlanders - NorthTec

·        Technological change and the future of work – Productivity Commission