Council Changes Have Implications for Tertiary Education
Council Changes Have Implications for Success of Tertiary Education Strategy
Te Mana Ākonga has long been an advocate for Māori and has previously acknowledged support of the Government focus on increasing Māori and Pasifika achievement in tertiary education. The recent draft Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) for 2014-2019 includes a number of outcomes but the achievement of these outcomes may come at the expense of the very students that the TES is supposed to support.
“The welcomed release of the draft TES for 2014-2019 is an opportunity to boost achievement for all students including Māori and Pasifika but its release is marred by the proposal to change the composition of university and wananga councils”, says Ivy Harper, Tumuaki of Te Mana Ākonga, the National Tertiary Māori Students’ Association.
“At a time when the Minister is seeking to improve the way tertiary education supports student achievement through a proposed Tertiary Education Strategy (TES), he proposes a new council structure that has the potential to exclude the most important stakeholders whose contribution at a governance level would go some way towards ensuring the success of the proposed Strategy”, says Harper.
“The proposal that council numbers will be reduced from between 12-20 to 8-12 so that councils will benefit from being ‘smaller, [and] more flexible’ in order to compete with overseas universities potentially has far-reaching changes which are being made for reasons of financial expediency, without any thought of what their wider effect will be”, says Harper.
“Universities and Wananga are much more than spaces for the acquisition of skills for the sole purpose of economic growth. Such institutions are not here just to serve business or the economy or wealth creation but rather to keep in circulation in a nation’s bloodstream certain moral codes in their role as the critic and conscience of society. Who better to critique these institutions than students as the users of such services?” suggests Harper.
“Te Mana Akonga supports the Māori Party’s comments on Māori student representation on councils and would go further to suggest that representative positions for different stakeholders such as unions, businesses, staff and other students should also be secured. The proposed changes to council representation together with the impact of voluntary student membership continues to erode the student voice within tertiary institutions”, says Harper.
“The loss of diverse representation on university councils including that of Māori student representation is reprehensible and both the Ministry of Education and the Minister of Tertiary Education should be working to ensure this is not lost under the proposed framework”, says Harper. “The Ministry of Education review of university and wananga governance contains a number of flaws with the most obvious being that the changes being sought are possible now within the existing framework”, notes Harper.