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Reforms of university and wānanga governance to proceed

Hon Steven Joyce
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills & Employment

The Government will proceed with its plans to reform university & wānanga governance councils to create smaller, skills-based councils that can respond more quickly and strategically to the challenges of modern-day tertiary education, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says.

The reforms will modernise councils so they can more easily meet the needs of a rapidly-changing employment market, adapt to the new challenges from changing technology in teaching and learning, and operate more effectively in an increasingly competitive international university environment.

The changes will:

• Decrease the size of university and wānanga councils from 12 to 20 members to eight to 12 members.

• Make council membership requirements more flexible by removing specific representative requirements.

• Require the Minister and councils to appoint members with governance capability.

• Clarify the duties and accountabilities of individual council members.

The governance changes are the latest in a series of incremental reforms that are helping to improve the performance, quality and relevance of tertiary education in New Zealand at all levels.

“The Government has made a series of changes, including initiatives like Performance-Linked Funding and the new Education Performance Indicators, which are helping to lift the performance of all institutions in the sector,” Mr Joyce says.

“This approach has resulted in significant improvements in performance and a system that is delivering more graduates than ever before. In 2012, a total of 162,000 qualifications were completed in the New Zealand tertiary education system – up 23 per cent from 2008.

“The governance reforms will support universities and wānanga in their drive to be more responsive to the needs of their students.

“The current governance settings for wānanga were not written with them in mind. The changes will allow wānanga much more flexibility to reflect their unique stakeholders on their council.

Mr Joyce stressed that the reforms will not compromise institutional autonomy or academic freedom. “Those freedoms are guaranteed by Section 161 of the Education Act, and that will not be changing.”

“Through these reforms, universities and wānanga will have more freedom to determine the make-up of their councils than under the previous highly prescriptive model,” Mr Joyce says.

“They can, for example, choose to retain student and staff representation, and I expect many, if not most, will.

“Under the new reforms the Government will be appointing approximately a third of the members of each council with the make-up of the rest of councils determined by each institution’s constitution.

“All councils will be required to have at least one Māori member to assist the goal of boosting the achievement of Māori. This is not a major change as all but one of the affected institutions have Māori appointees to councils today.”

The changes will be included as part of an Education Amendment Bill which will be introduced to Parliament soon. If passed, universities and wānanga will transition to new councils on or before 1 January 2016.

More information on the changes.


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