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Commitment to student-centred tertiary education needs teeth

27 July 2017

Minister’s commitment to student-centred tertiary education system needs teeth

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed the Government’s commitment to a student-centred tertiary education system, but warns the outlined work programme will not give effect to this goal.

The commitment comes out of the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission report on new models of tertiary education, released yesterday. In the response, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith outlined a commitment to creating a student-centred system in which informed and engaged students can access the education opportunities best suited to them.

‘While efforts to provide better information, mobility and careers education are welcome, this only goes part-way in empowering students to optimise their tertiary experience. The other part is engaging and involving students as partners and co-producers in their own learning experience, the Minister’s plan is silent in these areas,’ says National President Jonathan Gee.

‘New Zealand should be more ambitious in pursuing international best practice for students, specifically through investing in capacity building to enhance student voice.’

International best practice in the sector acknowledges the importance of student voice in governance and decision-making, and in assuring quality. Some of this work has already started, for example with NZUSA’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Academic Quality Agency which supports students as auditors in assessing university academic quality.

On other aspects of the Government’s response to the Commission’s report, NZUSA is pleased that the Minister has rejected recommendations around interest on student loans and variable subsidies to tuition fees for courses of ‘high private return’. We are also pleased that he is willing to explore developing a framework for tertiary teaching. However, Gee was cautious at suggestions to continue to consider changes to fee regulation and to review the requirement for research-led teaching in degree-level study.

‘Barrier-free, affordable and equitable access to tertiary education needs to be front and centre of any changes to the system. We would expect active engagement and consultation with students on any possible changes to tuition fees or the way we are taught,’ Gee says.

In referring to the Minister’s commitment that tertiary education should meet the needs of industry and employers, NZUSA noted that students’ needs also need to be prioritised.

‘The Minister himself referred to the importance of tertiary education in deepening our understanding of ourselves, our history, the world and finding solutions to our many challenges. Skills that match with the needs of industry are essential, but we must equally prioritise tertiary education’s role as a powerful social lever that transforms the lives of individuals and their communities.’

‘We look forward to working with Government to ensure that tertiary education is working best for students.’

NZUSA is the national voice of students in tertiary education. The organisation is governed by students' associations from universities and polytechnics around the country.


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