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Maharey Speech: Private Tertiary Education

Steve Maharey Speech: Private Tertiary Education: Securing a Place in a Collaborative System

Address to the New Zealand Association of Private Education Providers (NZAPEP) 2003 National Conference, Winning Combinations – Pathways To Excellence. Hotel Intercontinental, Wellington.


Let me begin by thanking the NZAPEP for inviting me to speak at your Annual Conference. There is certainly much to discuss and to plan this year. For my part, I view this Conference as an excellent opportunity to participate in constructive dialogue with an organisation that provides an independent voice for the private education providers of New Zealand.

I would like to congratulate you on the theme of this Conference “Winning Combinations – Pathways to Excellence”. This particular focus highlights to me the commitment of the NZAPEP to the core principles underpinning and driving the Tertiary Education Strategy - more specifically - the need to ensure the development of an internally connected, outwardly focussed and more capable New Zealand tertiary education system, characterised by Excellence, Relevance and Access.

I would like to focus my speech on the contribution of the PTE sector to the emerging tertiary education landscape. In particular I want to talk about the sorts of winning combinations and connections that will enable excellent, relevant and accessible learning pathways across the sector.

And I would also like to talk about the recently released Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities (STEP) and the role of private providers in advancing the priorities outlined for achieving the longer term goals of the Tertiary Education Strategy.

And I will finish with the new protocol that has now been agreed between your organisation and myself as Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education). Before I begin, however, I would like to emphasise my view that the key to our success in achieving the broad goals of the TES, will be: our capacity to work through the establishment phase of implementation with optimism and determination, and our ability to keep focussed on the long term vision for tertiary education in New Zealand.


At this point I think it would be helpful to remind ourselves of a key reason behind the tertiary reforms, that is, collaboration and cooperation for the strategic use of resources across the sector – if we want “pathways to excellence” then we need a great deal more “winning combinations”.

Of course we still want PTEs and other tertiary education organisations to work individually to identify and meet the needs of your own stakeholders. However, just as importantly, we need you to work more collectively to meet the needs of the nation as a whole.

This emphasis on “connectedness” runs very deep – it is an essential component of the government’s overall strategy to secure a strong position for New Zealand within an increasingly competitive global context. As a small nation in a remote geographical location we must work harder and smarter if we want to lift New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD growth statistics. A coherent and strategically focussed tertiary education system, delivering the skills that we need, will be vital to achieving this goal.

However, we must ensure that we strike a balance between ‘achieving greater cooperation and more effective sharing of resources’ and ‘maintaining sufficient distinction and diversity within the system’.

The key will be to develop strength across the board in tertiary education. We need sector wide excellence, relevance and access. And we need differentiation between institutional types, differentiation within types as well as specialisation by each tertiary education organisation.

Tertiary education organisations need to see themselves as each providing an essential element within an overall system, not simply as competitors.

For all tertiary education organisations, the value of their contribution to the new landscape will depend on how closely aligned this contribution is to the broad goals and directions of the TES and STEP. The new tools and processes are being developed by the TEC, in consultation with many others in the sector, in such a way as to encourage the system to move in this direction.

The broad intention of the transition period is to ‘steer’ the system in a way that improves the: quality of teaching and learning: quality of research; and quality and strength of relationships, within and beyond the sector.

I certainly believe that the PTEs of New Zealand have much to offer the new tertiary education system and I would like to highlight what I believe to be some of the key strengths of PTEs within this emerging context.

Contributing to a Diverse Mix of Tertiary Education Provision

The success of the Tertiary Education Strategy ultimately will depend on our ability to maintain a vibrant mix of high quality provision that caters to the differing needs of New Zealand learners. The private education providers in New Zealand made an important contribution in this respect and will continue to have a unique role in complementing public provision.

I would like to congratulate PTEs on your successes over the years in providing a wide range of education experiences to students of many different backgrounds. The diverse-and flexible learning arrangements provided by PTEs improve the accessibility and relevance of learning opportunities for many New Zealanders who may not otherwise access tertiary learning at all. These strengths leave PTEs well placed to participate in the new tertiary education system.

Close Relationship with Industry and Business

Your willingness to engage and collaborate with industry, particularly at the local level, means that you have been able to offer programmes directly linked with local business and industry and the skill need of those industries.

And the flexibility of your sector allows you to respond quickly so that industry gains people with work-ready skills and knowledge and individuals gain relevant and practical skills that enrich their working lives. This is of considerable value in an economy experiencing skill shortages and requiring quick responses.

Lifting the Foundation Skills of New Zealanders

For those of you providing training under the Training Opportunities and Youth Training programmes, we have had significant successes to celebrate. The overall performance of these initiatives has continued to improve over time.

As you are aware, the focus of these programmes is on providing foundation skills. Training Opportunities and Youth Training represents this government’s key investment in lifting the foundation skills of those who have not acquired these skills at school.

The need for all New Zealanders to develop these core skills is a key strategy of the TES and fundamental to the emergence of a knowledge society.

We now have demonstrable evidence of the overall effect the acquisition of foundation skills has on an individual’s life chances and ultimately a nation’s social and economic prosperity. They are the platform from which further learning can take place and as such are critical to the national skills development picture. Without foundation skills, people struggle to keep learning and to keep pace with the changes that continue to affect all of us in our daily lives.

A great example of the multiple pay-offs that good foundation skills can bring, can be found in the Wairoa driving licence advancement programme. This programme was originally established in response to the high levels of Wairoa residents driving without a licence and / or driving vehicles without a current Warrant of Fitness. However, the benefits and rewards have been far greater than originally anticipated – with behavioural improvements in road safety, use of child restraints, drink driving, speeding, and gains in literacy and attitudes to learning. The other important feature of this programme is that it exemplifies the concept of a “Winning Combination” – co-ordinated by Wairoa REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) with the support and involvement of the Wairoa-Waikaremoana Mäori Trust Board, a PTE, and others including Roadside Hawkes Bay, the Land Transport Safety Authority and ACC injury prevention.

Within this context – the many rewards derived from the acquisition of strong foundation skills – it is particularly pleasing to see the destination results for the 2002 calendar year showing that the majority of both Maori and non-Maori trainees (64% and 67% respectively) leaving Training Opportunities achieved a positive destination outcome.

Similarly those young trainees leaving Youth Training in 2002 (66% Mäori and 75% non-Maori ) with a positive destination outcome have been given a great opportunity to begin a journey of lifelong learning and to contribute to a more highly skilled New Zealand.

This data, from both of these programmes, represents an increase from the previous year. These are particularly commendable results, given some of the difficulties faced by many of the participants.

I am especially pleased to see that there has been a consistent trend over 10 years of Training Opportunities for a significant narrowing of the gap between the positive outcomes for Maori and non- Maori. I believe that in 1993 the gap was 9 percentage points while in 2002 it came down to 2 percentage points. Well done to all of those providers and others here today who have contributed to these successes.

I am delighted to say that we also have very positive results to report with respect to the two strands of the Skill Enhancement programme – 83% of Maori and 83% of Pacific learners achieved positive destination outcomes in the 2002 year. Success of this sort enables many young Maori and Pacific Islands people to move forward in their lives with greater confidence, skill and knowledge.

Each of these initiatives (Training Opportunities, Youth Training, Skill Enhancement) represent a very important component of the overall strategy to ensure accessibility to the tertiary education system for all New Zealanders. And also a means of contributing to a system that more effectively meets Maori expectations to enrich their lives and open doors to the knowledge society.

Contributing to Excellent, Relevant and Accessible Learning Pathways

I have talked about the ability of PTEs generally to be flexible and innovative and able to quickly respond to emerging needs and niche requirements. These qualities, together with your involvement in the provision of foundation skills, demonstrate potential for alignment with the Tertiary Education Strategy and the goals of excellent, relevant and accessible learning pathways.

As all of you here will know, for many individuals the ability to establish a clear and relevant learning pathway where foundation skills can be built upon in a meaningful way is what ensures their success in the learning process.

I believe that many PTEs are well placed to provide bridging or stair-casing opportunities for New Zealand learners in a wide range of situations – for example from school or foundation programmes to more vocationally specific courses, and on to work-based placements. PTEs often provide the important learning link that can keep a pathway seamless for a learner seeking to build skills in a context that suits their preferred learning style and their particular needs.


Of course it is impossible to predict the exact business directions and positioning of individual tertiary education organisations in the future environment. It is my view, however, that as PTEs build on current strengths and seek to make a distinct contribution within the new tertiary education landscape, they will continue to be involved in the following education and training activities: targeting groups of learners with specific learning needs sharing programmes and services with other providers as part of local consortia or national alliances linked to each other, iwi, community, industry and other tertiary education organisations in the pursuit of quality, relevance and excellence co-operating nationally and internationally to supply particular programmes developing and implementing programmes that meet the particular needs of Maori learners introducing innovative approaches to enhance the education and training outcomes of Pacific students concentrating on recognition of prior learning and infill learning working closely with secondary schools on alternative pathways for students; complementing workplace learning initiatives delivering boutique learning for workplaces, iwi, community.

The most important consideration for all tertiary education organisations in the new environment is that there is strategic alignment between the goals and priorities articulated in the TES and STEP and the provision being offered. By 2007, the Assessment of Strategic Relevance (ASR) and other steering instruments will be sufficiently embedded to be helping to shape the system in accordance with the Strategy.

In the meantime however, the TEC is working with yourselves and many others to move the system through this transition period in ways that minimise disruption and maximise strategic alignment with the TES goals.


It is sensible to acknowledge, however, that any change process, particularly one of the magnitude of the tertiary education reforms, can be frustrating and a great deal of hard work at times – for all of us involved. I would like to mention at this point my requirement that we balance this essential change with the equally important need for certainty and continuity within the sector.

The greatest challenge I believe, as we become increasingly involved in the nuts and bolts of the implementation process, is to keep an eye on the long-term vision for tertiary education in New Zealand and for our country more generally.

Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities (STEP)

And that is why the STEP documents are so very important. They give us a framework for keeping focussed on the implementation priorities at a given time, within the broader context of the overall strategy. And they provide a step down from the higher level strategies and goals of the TES. The STEP is as much about identifying priorities for government departments and agencies as it is about providing some clarity to tertiary education organisations about how they can maximise their contribution.

The recently published 2003 /2004 STEP builds on the very strong foundation established by the interim STEP and focuses on implementation over the next 18 months. One small but important change in emphasis in this latest STEP is an increased focus on Strategy Four of the TES to “Develop the Skills New Zealanders Need for Our Knowledge Society”.

I would like to reiterate that the private education and training sector makes an important contribution already in terms of meeting the objectives of this strategy, particularly around “equity of access and opportunity for all learners” and “improved provision of, and better systems of recognition for, high level generic skills”. These are areas where many of you will be focussing your business strategies and planning activities and where the PTE sector can add significant value.

A further key priority for the period covered by this STEP is to develop the infrastructure and processes that will support the new tertiary education system.

Charters and Profiles

Accordingly, most of you will have recently been developing and finalising your Charters for 2004. I hope that you have found this process to be a useful business planning and development exercise.

As I have mentioned many times before, Charters, along with Profiles, are the tools that will bring the Tertiary Education Strategy alive, and bring about much needed change in the tertiary education system.

Charters are fundamental documents for all tertiary education organisations and they will take time, consultation and several iterations to get right. They are the only documents that directly connect me as responsible Minister with individual tertiary education organisations. I will want to be sure that they make a genuine contribution to building a more quality and stakeholder-focused tertiary education system, able to meet New Zealand’s knowledge and research needs.

In particular I will be looking to see how the draft Charters: outline the mission and special character of each TEO. As I mentioned earlier, the government is consciously building a specialised and differentiated tertiary education system and Charters should define what individual contribution each organisation will make within the overall nationwide system of tertiary education; describe how individual TEOs will make a contribution to New Zealand’s identity and economic, social and cultural development; and identify how individual TEOs intend collaborating and cooperating with other ITOs and tertiary education organisations. The days of rampant destructive competition in the tertiary education sector are over and Charters have an important role in defining how tertiary education organisations will work together to improve quality, enhance access and respond to emerging knowledge and skill needs.

Some of the larger PTEs represented here will also have been developing Profiles for 2004 while the majority of PTEs are not expected to do this until 2005. Needless to say the TEC has an enormous task in front of it and is systematically working through this process in preparation for 1 January 2005, when all funding will be tied to Profiles.

This makes 2004 a transitional year for most PTEs as 2003 has been and as I stated at the beginning of this speech, I urge you to work through this period with patience and with the end goals of the Strategy in mind.


Strategic Priorities Fund

Of course, the critical issue for many of you will be the funding arrangements for PTEs as we move through this transition period. As you know we are moving towards a new Integrated Funding Framework that will see funding negotiated between PTEs and the TEC by the way of Profiles and assessments of strategic relevance.

There will be a Strategic Priorities Fund for PTEs in 2004. I understand that the TEC is currently in the process of talking issues through with NZAPEP representatives, as well as other PTE associations. Among the details that will be finalised after consultation with PTE associations is the extent to which the education funded by the SPF in 2003 will continue to be funded in 2004, and therefore what funds will be available for new applications. They will also be discussing how the components of the PTE allocation should fit together in the transitional 2004 year, until the Integrated Funding Framework is in place.

My priority during this interim period is to ensure that the systems and processes in place allow us to keep steering provision in alignment with the strategic priorities determined by the TES and STEP.

Confirmation of the Fee and Course Costs Maxima System

A very important feature of the new system will be ensuring that tertiary education remains affordable for all New Zealanders. After considering the public submissions on this issue, I firmly believe that the new system establishes a sound middle ground between the uncontrolled fee-setting environment experienced during the 1990s and an inflexible, centralised fee-setting system.

The final design of the system draws heavily on the report of the Fee Maxima Reference Group, which included students, tertiary providers and staff union representatives.

Other Contributions

I have mentioned the Strategic Priorities Fund and the Training Opportunities, Youth Training and Skill Enhancement programmes. Of course the government’s commitment to the ongoing development of a strategically focussed PTE sector that makes a contribution within the broader context established by the TES and STEP, is reflected in the many different contributions made by government across the sector. I would like to briefly mention some of these.

The financial commitment to Training Opportunities and Youth Training for the 2003/04 year is $96.9 million and $69.5 million respectively.

To complement the development and implementation processes of the TES, we have also established a number of specifically focussed funding pools and initiatives to develop capability within the sector. These include: the Innovation and Development Fund – designed to foster new and innovative ideas and develop TEO’s capability to improve the operation of the tertiary education system; and the E-Learning Collaborative Development Fund – designed to improve the tertiary education system’s capability to deliver e-learning that improves education access or quality for learners.


Of course the other key commitment government is making to the private providers of New Zealand represented by the NZAPEP, is the development of a protocol between your organisation and myself as Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education).

This protocol, which I am signing today, reflects the ongoing and important role of the private training sector within the new environment and provides a strong basis for a strategic partnership to help give effect to the goals of the Tertiary Education Strategy.

Developed between NZAPEP and the government, the protocol recognises your organisation’s role as a leading PTE representative organisation and signals the intent of both parties to work cooperatively together. The government would welcome approaches by other tertiary organisations seeking to develop similar agreements.

Ultimately, the success of the reform process will rely on good quality dialogue and a collaborative approach to the sharing of information and expertise.


I would like to conclude by emphasising that it is providers such as yourselves that will help bring the Tertiary Education Strategy to life. It is true that the tertiary education system of the future will be quite different to the system of old and that to get there requires a shift in focus and a commitment to the shared vision for New Zealand.

The PTEs of New Zealand have an important and distinct role to play in the new tertiary education landscape. We welcome the opportunity to use the Charters and Profiles process to further articulate the role PTEs play collectively within the tertiary education system.

Ultimately, the success of the reform process will rely on good quality dialogue and a collaborative approach to the sharing of information and expertise. Conferences such as this provide a great forum for all of us involved in the implementation of the Tertiary Education Strategy to discuss and share our different perspectives and knowledge and to work through issues of concern.

These reforms are about ensuring that our shared investment results in a sector that is empowered to make its contribution to the development of a knowledge economy and society and our economic and social development as a nation.

The reforms are being implemented with ongoing and extensive communication and consultation with the tertiary education sector and with the wide range of stakeholders and communities it serves. As we continue implementing this new approach, partnership will be paramount – partnerships between government organisations and tertiary education organisations, and partnerships with our external stakeholders and communities.

Let us make these partnerships become the “Winning Combinations” of the future.

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