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Minister must review pressure to pass crisis

Media release
Tertiary Education Union - Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa
9 May 2017


National’s approach to tertiary education is putting staff under immense pressure to pass students and must be the subject of a thorough sector-wide review before further changes are enshrined in law, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said today.

The call for a review coincides with publication of a ‘stress dossier’ [1] outlining more than 500 anonymous comments the TEU received from staff in response to its recent State of the Sector survey [2]. The dossier includes hundreds of examples of where staff have been put under pressure to change students’ marks and alter assessments, shining a light on what it’s like to work in a tertiary education sector run by National.

Comments contained in the dossier include:

· “Ever since funding was linked to retention and success there has been pressure from management to pass more students while at the same time wanting more full-time students.”

· “I see students year after year who in their first steps in the university are already set up to fail because they do not have the requisite skills for academic study and should not actually be at university.”

· “We have been required to remove all internal compulsory items from our course. Now all assessment items are no longer compulsory. This was done with the rationale that more passes means more funding.”

Publication of the dossier coincides with the expected first reading this week of a controversial law that could see funding stripped away from public education and handed to private businesses. Copies of the dossier will be taken to Parliament this afternoon and presented to the tertiary education spokespeople for Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First, as well as staff in the Minister’s office.

Sandra Grey, TEU national president, said : “National wants to enshrine into law its guiding principle of putting profit before students without first reviewing the impact this is having on the quality of tertiary education. The very least the public should expect from National is a thorough review of the tertiary education reforms it has introduced before the Minister presses ahead and puts into law an approach this dossier suggests has failed. The review needs to hear directly from staff about what it’s like to work the sector, including the dossier's suggestion that staff are increasingly expected to set aside their commitment to quality education and change marks to fit National’s funding priorities.”

Jonathan Gee, president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, said: "The dossier reveals some of the unintended consequences that the tertiary education funding model has created. When staff are feeling the pressure to pass students, or admit them into courses that they aren't ready for, tertiary education is failing to do its job of producing well-educated and well-rounded graduates. If the system continues in its current direction, we pose the risk of turning tertiary institutions into degree factories rather than places where students genuinely learn, grow and succeed."



[2] The State of the Sector survey was first published in March 2017. The report presented the findings from the survey but not the individual comments that were received. The dossier also includes anonymous comments sent to the TEU since publication of the survey. For a copy of the survey visit

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