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Sharpening tertiary education's focus

Hon Dr Michael Cullen

Minister for Tertiary Education

29 August 2006 Media Statement

Sharpening tertiary education's focus

The Tertiary Education Strategy Discussion Document released today aims to reinforce the contribution that the tertiary education system makes to the performance of the economy and New Zealand’s social and cultural development.

"The discussion document is the first step in providing a clear statement of the government’s priorities in tertiary education that will give a broad direction for the sector," said Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen.

"Consultation in the months ahead will allow the government to set the new Tertiary Education Strategy 2007/12 (TES). From that we will be able to establish the detailed priorities for the sector to follow, which will be published in the next Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities 2008/10 (STEP) in December.

"The TES and STEP will be important components in the new tertiary funding framework. Tertiary education organisations will be funded according to how their plans align with the new priorities for the sector as set by the TES and STEP.

"The first TES and STEPs set a broad and inclusive direction for tertiary education. We propose to build on this and provide a sharper focus on the shifts that the government expects in tertiary education in order to achieve greater quality, relevance and value for money. The sharper focus is not at the expense of New Zealand’s broad and inclusive tertiary education system, which must be maintained."

Dr Cullen said the sector faces significant challenges in the next five to ten years.

"A large group of young New Zealanders, the ‘baby blip’, will be moving into the tertiary sector and the workforce. At the same time there will continue to be urgency to lift skills, qualifications and productivity during a time of high employment.

"It is critical that the tertiary education sector plays its part in accelerating the transformation of New Zealand into a high wage, knowledge-based economy. We must continue to grow globally competitive firms through improving our creation, transfer and application of knowledge."

Experience gained with the first TES and STEPs suggests that the new TES and STEP should also:

- continue to set out a broad vision for the tertiary education system – a vision that sector stakeholders can readily identify with and relate to;

- set fewer, clearer goals and priorities – to avoid appearing to be all things to all people, and to help the sector understand the government’s priorities; and

- be clearer about how the government’s policy levers, such as regulation, funding and information, will be used to achieve these goals.

The STEP provides the detailed priorities that will allow the broad goals established by the TES to be achieved.

Some possible STEP priority areas:

- Increasing educational success for young New Zealanders – more achieving level 4+ qualifications by age 25

- Increasing the level of literacy and numeracy in the workforce

- Increase the delivery of skills and competencies to meet regional and national industry needs

- Improving research connections and linkages to create economic opportunities

The document also stresses the need for increased monitoring and evaluation to ensure the desired shifts are achieved.

Dr Cullen is encouraging wide ranging discussions in the two month consultation period for the document.

“The issues set out in the publication go to the heart of New Zealand economic, social and cultural life. We have set out an analysis of the current status of the sector, the challenges and opportunities and have identified some priorities. Now we want to hear from tertiary industry organisations, students, employers and communities so that we can ensure tertiary education continues to play a valuable role in transforming our economy.”

The discussion document is available at:


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