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Proposal to reduce number of universities opposed

AUS website
The Association of University Staff (AUS) shares the concerns expressed yesterday by farming, technology and research leaders that, without urgent action, New Zealand was at risk of a continuing loss of its human capital and of falling further and further behind advanced economies. The AUS disagrees, however, that the solution to these problems lies in reducing the number of universities.

Speaking in Christchurch today, AUS National President, Neville Blampied, said that the idea that New Zealand could build a "world-class" university system by merging institutions is a managerialist dream, which could just as easily turn into a nightmare.

"New Zealand universities have always been internationally focussed, and committed to achieving international standards in research, scholarship and teaching. Every university has developed areas of particular strength. Developing existing centres of excellence by enhanced funding and some consolidation of effort would deliver better outcomes for New Zealand than any forced amalgamation process," he said.

Neville Blampied added that initiatives such as the soon-to-be-announced Tertiary Education Advisory Commission mean that Government policy is moving in a positive direction, and AUS believes that there is much that can be done to enhance the performance of our university system, short of the disruption and distraction of mergers.

"This includes reducing barriers to co-operation within the sector; reducing staff stress and low morale by attending to uncompetitive pay and adverse conditions; and by repairing damage to the physical and intellectual infrastructure caused by a decade of funding cuts."

AUS welcomes evidence that there is a growing consensus among sector leaders in New Zealand about the critical importance of developing the knowledge society. "Our members have a vital role to play in this development," Blampied said, "and they welcome the challenge of working with the government and other leaders to achieve this objective."

Contact for Neville Blampied: 021 680 475

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