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Tertiary Education Reform Bill Fails Test

Tertiary Education Reform Bill Fails Desirability Test

The introduction of 'central steering' in the tertiary education sector, as proposed in the Tertiary Education Reform Bill (TERB), is likely to fail, according to the New Zealand Business Roundtable (NZBR).

"While the TERB's objectives are laudable, its prescription of central steering based on a 'desirability test' is unlikely to deliver better tertiary education outcomes", said Norman LaRocque, policy advisor at the NZBR.

Mr LaRocque said the underlying premises of the TERB – that there is 'excessive' competition and duplication in the tertiary education sector and that central steering will yield better outcomes than a decentralised system – are unsupported.

"While central steering may look persuasive on paper, it generally fails in practice – witness the recent experience with school roll growth in Auckland. It is likely to result in more red tape for institutions, less choice for students, more scope for arbitrary funding decisions and greater micro-management of the sector", Mr LaRocque said.

According to Mr LaRocque, government policy should focus on supporting informed choice and healthy competition in the tertiary education sector, and more autonomy, not less, for institutions within it. Policies that would help achieve this include aligning funding for public and private institutions, improving quality assurance and taking further steps to improve information in the sector. The government should also eliminate the fee-freeze, revamp governance arrangements and reverse recent student loan changes, all of which were identified as issues by TEAC, he said.

"The NZBR would be happy to join the government and sector stakeholders in developing a reform package to better meet the needs of the tertiary sector and the country as a whole", Mr LaRocque concluded.

The NZBR presented its TERB submission to the Education and Science Select Committee on 20 March. The submission will be available at www.nzbr.org.nz.

Ends

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