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Important safeguards proposed for tertiary ed

Important safeguards proposed for tertiary education reform legislation

The government is proposing several changes to strengthen and clarify the intent of major tertiary education reform legislation before Parliament and provide important safeguards around the way new Ministerial powers can be exercised.

Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey today circulated the amendments the government will seek to the Tertiary Education Reform Bill during its Parliamentary clause-by-clause debate, which is expected to commence this week.

Steve Maharey said the legislation significantly reshapes New Zealand’s tertiary education and industry training system and concretely links teaching and research to the skills and knowledge needs of New Zealand’s economy and society.

“There is an urgent need to lift the contribution education makes to our development as a knowledge society. This new legislation for the first time allows the community to outline the skills and research they need and for this to be used by the Tertiary Education Commission in its funding negotiations with tertiary education organisations.

“Select Committee consideration of the bill and further discussions with the Greens, New Zealand First and the tertiary education sector has led to a number of amendments to the legislation to ensure it meets our objectives. The changes provide a number of important safeguards to ensure that Ministers exercise the new powers delegated to them in the best interests of the education system and the communities they serve.

“A new objects clause will ensure the government’s responsibility to foster and develop our tertiary education system is enshrined in law. It specifies the key attributes and values sought from a well functioning system and the contribtion such a system will make to New Zealand’s cultural, intellectual, social and economic development.

“The amendments containing the legislative basis for the government to set limits on tuition fees are also being re-circulated. Labour and the Progressive Coalition want to keep the costs of education to students as low as possible, but we also recognise that insitutions need a sufficent resource base if they are to provide quality learning and research. The bill will provide for public submissions to be considered as part of the process leading to the setting of fee limits.

“Finally, the government has agreed to a review, by no later than 1 March 2006, of the new export education levy the bill allows for. The new levy will be used to fund a wide range of activities relating to industry development, promotion and quality assurance.

“The government will also be seeking amendments to the bill that: change the formal establishment date for the new Tertiary Education Commission to 1 January 2003. A transition Commission is already in place; extend the quality assurance regime to courses of less than three months duration offered to international students; enable the government to impose particulatr criteria that permanent residents must satisfy before they are entitled to be classified as domestic students; and tidy up a number of technical issues.

“Taken together the proposed changes to the bill demonstrate that the government has been carefully listening to the tertiary education sector and other parties and has been prepared to provide new important safeguards, while preserving the overall thrust of the reforms,” Steve Maharey said.

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