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AUS Tertiary Update Vol.4 Special Edition 7.3.01

Welcome to this special edition of "Tertiary Update" on "Shaping the System" -- TEAC's latest report on the future of the tertiary education sector released earlier today in Wellington.

As we reported in "Tertiary Update" Vol.4 No. 5, the proposed structure revolves around the creation of a new autonomous body, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). This would be responsible for the whole of the sector -- including community, second chance and vocational training as well as universities and polytechnics. That would mean that tertiary education responsibilities within the Ministry of Education would cease, although the Ministry would continue to give policy advice to the Commission.
Its roles would include:
„h "steering" the tertiary education system, including negotiating charters and profiles (see below);
„h providing advice and leadership;
„h allocating funding;
„h monitoring the performance of providers (although quality control will remain with NZQA).
The Commission would have up to 12 members, at least two of them Maori, appointed by the Minister for a maximum of three terms. Beneath this, it is envisaged there would be a series of sub-committees devoted to specific areas of the sector and particular issues, but the report does not go into how they would be set up. AUS has been calling for this approach over many years. It will allow the formulation of a focused strategy in what has become a highly fragmented sector.

The policy instruments that would be used by TEC to steer the sector include a system of functional classification of providers, strengthened charters, and profiles.

The "Shaping the System" report suggests that a set of classifications be devised to define institutions and providers, rather than relying on their legal standing, or the current set of terms to describe them. TEAC suggests these classifications will allow greater differentiation, specialisation, and clarity in defining the roles of institutions and providers as a basis for the charters and profiles that are an essential part of the proposed system. It suggests the following classifications:
„h learning and assessment support;
„h community education and training;
„h industry or professional education and training;
„h comprehensive teaching;
„h specialist teaching;
„h comprehensive teaching and research;
„h specialist teaching and research;
„h akoranga Maori.

Under the new system, all publicly-funded providers of tertiary education, including PTEs receiving government funding, would be required to have a charter meeting a number of requirements. It would have to:
„h focus on the medium to long-term;
„h define the broad scope of activities that the government would fund;
„h focus on the special character of the provider;
„h describe how a provider contributes to the achievement of the nation's tertiary education strategy.

These would have to be supplied by all providers, whether or not they were receiving public funding. They would be used in determining funding, but would also allow TEC to get a clear picture of what was happening right across the sector. The profiles would be required to:
„h specify providers' programmes and activities over a three-year period;
„h specify which programmes and activities the government would fund for providers with a charter.

TEAC is suggesting several new titles for institutions. The first is the creation of "specialist institutes", and it suggests that the present Colleges of Education would be better placed under that category. The other innovation is Centres or Networks of Excellence which the report sees as encouraging research capacity and capability and building critical mass.

In a speech at the launch of the TEAC report, the Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey said the government's vision was for a system that allowed "society to intervene" in the tertiary education sector. But he made it clear that he was not seeking a "Singaporean" or "Finnish" approach of dictating what institutions did. Instead he wanted "dialogue" on the direction tertiary education should take. He said some good things had come out of the past decade -- including innovation, leadership and a willingness to try different things, but the system of the 1990s was not adequate for the globalisation of the 21st century, when New Zealand needed an international as well as a national system of tertiary education.

It is envisaged that an establishment unit be set up towards the end of this year to prepare the ground for the setting up of the TEC. The change in the charters system, and the introduction of profiles would take place in 2002. This means that funding under the revised system would not begin until 2003. AUS believes that is too much of a delay, putting question marks over funding for 2003. National president, Neville Blampied says that the sector requires three Cs if the government is to "advance its vision of New Zealand becoming a knowledge society and innovation-based economy...". It needs, he says, courage and commitment, but above all cash, and "substantial cash" at that. At a time when many countries are announcing major increases in university funding, Mr Blampied suggests the question we should be asking is: "How can New Zealand afford to wait years more before even beginning to reinvest in our university system?"
Submissions on the report close on 7 April, and a series of forums are being held around the country to get comment on the proposals. See "Tertiary Update Vol 4, No. 5 for details to date; further information will be provided of venues and times as they come to hand.
And if you would like to see the report in full it is now posted on the TEAC website at

The New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) is calling on the government to include specific student representation on the TEC. NZUSA says that is the only way the needs of learners -- identified in the initial TEAC report as being central to the design of the system -- will be included in the development of the sector. The students say that while current government appointments may have a commitment to the public tertiary sector, a future National government could potentially turn it into an "elitist education round table."

We'd like to apologise for a glitch in the system that saw the last "Tertiary Update" go into e-mail boxes with all the recipients' addresses on show. This should not have happened, and we're doing our utmost to ensure it doesn't happen again. So our sincere apologies for any problems caused.
AUS Tertiary Update is produced weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the union and others. Back issues are archived on the AUS website:

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