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Legislation Aimed At Unitec Has First Reading

14 October 2004

Legislation aimed at Unitec has first reading

When it comes to planning the future of the tertiary education sector, the Government seems to view discussions with those affected as a stalling tactic until they can write more laws, according to Unitec CEO Dr John Webster.

A proposed bill that had its first reading in Parliament today is aimed at preventing Unitec from becoming a university. Dr Webster said that the Government was going to extraordinary lengths to block the institution’s university application, even though he had offered to make numerous compromises.

“We have always tried to work with Government and fit in with the Tertiary Education Strategy. Until this bill was tabled last month, we thought our latest discussions with the Minister had been very constructive. This legislation took us by surprise and the Government appears to be taking an adversarial stance rather than continuing to look for a win-win solution.”

The proposed Education (Establishment of Universities) Amendment Bill gives Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey the power to veto university applications before an institution is assessed.

Unitec renewed its application for university status in 1999 and is still waiting to be assessed. The tabled legislation moves the goalposts by including a retrospective clause to stop Unitec’s ongoing application process in its tracks.

Dr Webster said that the Minister had obviously decided that Unitec now met the criteria for university status so comfortably that, if a fair assessment were conducted, he would find it hard to turn down the application.

“It is ironic that the Government has been unable to backdate a new law to prevent jailed criminals from being paid compensation, yet they have no problems making this legislation retrospective despite a legal process that has been underway for the past five years.”


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