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Extreme Caution at Labour's Tertiary Partnership

Wed, 17 Jul 2002

Extreme Caution Needed In Looking at Labour's 'Tertiary Education Partnership'

The Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association (ATSA) is calling for extreme caution in assessing the worth of the 'public-private' Tertiary Education Partnership proposed by Labour.

"Until we have the opportunity to see the decision-making framework which will underpin the system, ATSA is reluctant to either accept or reject the idea," ATSA President Julie Pettett said today. "On one level, it is only sensible that the private sector should provide substantial funds to our public tertiary sector - it is business which gains most of the direct economic benefit from tertiary educated students, therefore it makes sense that business should front up and meet some of the costs involved."

"On the other hand, there is a real risk that the private sector will demand control over the direction and content of the education delivered through such funding," said Pettett. "ATSA agrees with the statement by the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) that 'there is growing international evidence . that such partnerships have resulted in intrusions on academic freedom.' "

ATSA could not support such partnerships unless there are clear and transparent safeguards protecting the two fundamental rights of our publicly owned tertiary institutions. The autonomy of TEI Councils to govern their institutions must be retained, as must the academic freedom of staff and students to pursue knowledge free of political interference.

"We call on Mr Maharey to make explicit the non-negotiability of these fundamental rights," Pettett said. "We will withhold more detailed comment on the possible benefits of this partnership proposal until we receive that assurance."

If such an assurance is not forthcoming, ATSA will not consider supporting the idea that private funding of public tertiary institutions has any place in New Zealand. "The risks to the autonomy of the public sector, and the threat to our country's academic and cultural identity are too great for this proposal to proceed without debate," Pettett concluded.


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