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Steven Joyce ignores student concerns over council changes

Steven Joyce ignores student concerns over university council changes

A detailed submission by the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) against university council changes that would likely see academic independence and the student voice eroded has been shunned by the Government.

‘The decision Steven Joyce has made today is an open display of hostility towards students and staff and has shown just how much contempt they have towards tertiary education,’ says Cate Bell, President of AUSA.

‘Last year AUSA raised a number of concerns regarding the proposed changes. These concerns were echoed by the Tertiary Education Union and the University of Auckland. The Government has recklessly disregarded the overwhelming evidence presented by the very people it affects. Their consultation has meant nothing.’

A key change would reduce council sizes from 20 to 12 and remove guaranteed student representation, without reducing the amount of ministerial appointees.

‘This undermines academic independence of universities,’ says Jessica Storey, AUSA’s Education Vice-President, ‘these are the principles enshrined in the Education Act which the Minister wants to amend.

‘There is no correlation between smaller councils and better governance. If you look at the QS rankings of the top universities around the world, most of them have more than the 20 members on council, much like the University of Auckland currently, not fewer. Steven Joyce would be fooling himself to think these changes would improve rankings.

‘The only thing it would change is to take away important perspectives of key stakeholders, and reduce the room available for council to co-opt other members to fill skill gaps, the very thing Steven Joyce wanted to improve.

‘The Minister has cited the “improvement” of Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) as an example to follow. AUSA has pointed out on various occasions that the operating surplus of ITPs actually decreased after their council changes in 2010. The surplus was a result of the $200 million injection over a four year period in 2005, and has nothing to do with the changes to governance.

‘There are 40,000 students at the University of Auckland. It is not much to ask for two students to be elected to speak for them at a public institution where each student pays thousands of dollars in fees each year,’ continues Jessica Storey.

‘I am really concerned about what this Government is doing to tertiary education. They seem completely out of touch with reality.’


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