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Making the reforms real for university staff

Hon Steve Maharey

4 December 2003 Speech Notes

Making the reforms real for university staff

Address to Association of University Staff 2004 Annual Conference. Quality Hotel, Wellington.


[Slide 1 - Title Page]

Good morning.

I would like to thank the Association of University Staff for inviting me to speak at your annual conference.

As the representative of more than 6,000 staff throughout New Zealand universities, the Association of University Staff is an important part of the New Zealand tertiary sector. The work AUS conducts to support university staff and the significant policy contribution AUS makes to tertiary education and industrial matters is appreciated by this government.

The relationship I have with AUS is one I value very highly. I welcome opportunities, such as today, to engage with you as it is important to be able to remind ourselves as to why this government is undertaking the current tertiary reforms. Occasions like today also give me the opportunity to update you on key initiatives government is currently working on. For those of you who were here last year, you'll recall that I wanted to talk about relevance as a theme within the reforms. This year I want to focus on a number of initiatives that are impacting on you, both as university staff and as key members of the overall tertiary workforce.

[Slide 2 -Outline]

Let's start though by reminding ourselves why we are here today and why this government is implementing the tertiary reforms. Put simply, tertiary education organisations and governments in all jurisdictions need to lift their performance - this needs to be achieved with the assistance of industrial and professional organisations such as AUS.

The reforms are designed to encourage tertiary education organisations to take a more strategic leadership role within communities, regions and the nation. We want the sector to align itself with national goals, to see how it contributes to the achievement of these goals and to focus explicitly on developing stronger collaborative links with stakeholders.

This year, the focus of my speech is on elements of these reforms that apply particularly to you - university staff - and an update of the range of initiatives government is pursuing that will require your support and buy-in to be successful.

Firstly, let me assure you that I'm not looking for an additional period of macro-level change following what has already been a busy two years of reform. The initiatives I want to talk about now are ones that focus on building capability and assisting the sector to transition to the new tertiary environment:

- the planned Review of the Tertiary Education Workforce

- the Review of Quality;

- the Collaborating for Efficiency project;

- the ongoing implementation of the Performance-based Research Fund; and

- other initiatives to support the achievement of excellence in tertiary teaching.

- With regard to this last point, I want to talk to you about some of the pathways we could take in exploring excellence in both teaching and learning. It's an area that I'm particularly interested in and I would welcome your thoughts on these issues.

I also encourage you, if, at the conclusion of my address, you feel that any of the initiatives that I discuss are not clear and specific, to please raise this with me during the question and answer session.

Today, I'm also looking to give AUS an opportunity to engage with me on these initiatives and find out how you see yourself contributing positively and influencing their direction and purpose.

Let me start then with the proposed Tertiary Education Workforce Review.

[Slide 3 - Tertiary Education Workforce Review]


To go hand in hand with the sector reforms, and to ensure that the workforce is equipped to show the leadership and responsiveness necessary to achieve the reform goals, it has been identified that there need to be a strategic review of tertiary staffing and human capability issues.

I intend for this review to be conducted over 2004 and the first half of 2005. To make sure that we get it right, we will be keeping all major stakeholders, like AUS, closely involved in the design and development of the review. This means undertaking an exploration of the methods that could be used to undertake the review before the review proper begins. Other stakeholders I expect to be involved include TEOs as employers, and external stakeholders especially students and learners, Maori, Pasifika, business and industry.

The Workforce Review will be forward-focused, concentrating on identifying the needs that the tertiary education system, aligned with the Tertiary Education Strategy will be required to meet in the future.

The outcomes of this review are important to the government and whilst preparations are underway it is envisioned that each proposed phase will not proceed without a consensus as to the process to be undertaken.

[Slide 4 - Tertiary Education Workforce Review 2]

I'd like to go into a bit of detail around the proposed Phase One of the Review. As I said earlier, it is important to involve key stakeholder representatives in looking at methodology for undertaking the Review proper. By taking this approach I want to ensure that:

- Industrial matters do not override wider matters of HR development - which is where I want the review to focus;

- That all stakeholders understand that the review is not intended to intrude in to employment relationships;

- All that all stakeholders understand that the review will not cut across institutional autonomy.

To prepare for Phase One of the Review I'm also keen to adopt a workshop approach where stakeholders can discuss the options for carrying out Phase One. After initial workshops a draft terms of reference should be designed that will need to be confirmed by all stakeholders. Adopting a workshop approach will also give opportunities for those of us involved to interact with each other on the workforce issues we see impacting on us presently and in the future. I think this sort of informal dialogue is absolutely invaluable and I'll be pursuing as many opportunities as possible to ensure that this can occur.

[Slide 5 - Review of Quality ]


I'd now like to move to another important project. The upcoming Review of Quality.

The project is designed to help achieve better educational outcomes for all learners by enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in tertiary education. We also recognise that in pursuing these goals that institutional autonomy must be preserved and that compliance costs should be minimised.

The Project will consider how quality tertiary teaching and learning can be supported and developed. Peer review and self-review arrangements will be an important element. We will need to think more about how quality assurance arrangements can be used to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in tertiary education. We will also need to consider how quality assurance can be used to effectively manage at-risk providers.

There will be a focus on clarifying the roles and responsibilities of individuals and organisations involved in tertiary education to ensure that we have a well -integrated system that enhances the quality of teaching and learning in tertiary education. We will need to think about the roles of educators and tertiary education organisations; quality assurance bodies; and government agencies.

The project will be implemented in two key stages:

- a scoping exercise in late 2003 to establish the framework and parameters for the project, as well as the key issues to be addressed; and

- a working group in early-mid 2004 will undertake the project followed by consultation with the tertiary education sector and stakeholders.

Bill Rosenberg, President of AUS, has already been involved in a brainstorming session that will inform the project. At this session, we asked questions about how we build, at all levels, a culture that supports and advances quality teaching and learning in tertiary education.

To ensure that we achieve better educational outcomes for all learners, the project will involve sector experts and officials. Effective and inclusive consultation with tertiary education providers, learners, stakeholders, and other officials will be a key part of this work.

[Slide 6 - Collaborating for Efficiency]


I now want to highlight a project that has been recently completed - this is the "Collaborating for Efficiency" project. It's an example of an initiative aimed at TEIs, to assist themselves and each other, to make the transition to a new operating environment based on co-operation and collaboration.

The project has produced five reports in key areas critical to the performance of TEIs. These areas are Capital Assets Management, Staffing, Entrepreneurial activities, Library Services and Engagement with Maori.

I am releasing the staffing report today. I am impressed with the examples that were cited of collaborative activity occurring presently such as:

- the regional alliances that exist like the Canterbury Tertiary Alliance;

- institutional alliances such as the Tertiary Accord of New Zealand that brings together Polytechnics to grow and development specific elements of the Polytechnic market;

- bilateral arrangements such as the longstanding arrangement between VUW and the Wellington College of Education.

I know, however, that for arrangements like these to flourish and contribute to improved sector performance, that it will require continued good will an a willingness from all sector players to contribute to the national benefit.

I will also be considering recommendations from the Staffing report that suggest we need to improve the quality of human resources and staffing data available across the tertiary sector. In particular, the need to improve consistency in both data collection and reporting methodologies. It is likely that aspects of these issues will be looked at by the Tertiary Workforce Review project.

[Slide 7 - Performance Based Research Fund]


I want to take a moment now to recognise the efforts of university academic staff who are partaking in the ongoing implementation of the Performance Based Research Fund.

For many of you at this moment, the PBRF may seem more like a compliance exercise, involving the assembly of evidence portfolios and the like, than the beginning of an exciting new era. I acknowledge the work you are undertaking and I think it's important that I remind you exactly why you are going through this process.

If our tertiary system overall is to be driven by, and rewarded for a focus on excellence, relevance and access, then the Performance-Based Research Fund is anchored very much in the "Excellence' section of the trinity.

Although many people are working within the system at the cutting edge of their fields, the current funding and regulatory approaches do not adequately reveal, celebrate or reward them. We are determined to fix this problem, and the PBRF is an important part of the solution.

I'm confident that when the results come out early next year, and the money starts to flow, researchers will begin to see the benefits of a system that rewards and encourages excellence in research.

At the same time, it's very important to me that you understand that the PBRF is not about under-valuing the importance of quality teaching. The Tertiary Workforce Review and the Review of Quality make it clear that quality teaching is also a priority of this government.

[Slide 8 - Excellence in Teaching and Learning]


For the remainder of my speech then I'd like to discuss some of the initiatives that are supporting the drive for teaching excellence in tertiary.

A good first-up example are the tertiary teaching excellence awards that recognise excellence in tertiary teachers and the contribution they make to improved learning outcomes. Great teachers have an important enabling effect on their students. They convey to their students the gift of learning and enable them to continue building their skills across a lifetime. The Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards are about recognising and celebrating this vital facilitating link in the learning process. As the Prime Minister Helen Clark noted when presenting the awards this year, they are an important element of the government's aim to enhance the quality of tertiary education.

[Slide 9 - Developing the performance element]

Another important development is the proposed performance element of the funding framework - a lever that will be used by government to strengthen the focus on teaching excellence.

The purpose of the performance element is to provide incentives to Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) through marginal changes in funding, to bring about a systematic focus on improving educational gain by learners.

The overall goal of the performance element project will be:

"to reward quality in terms of educational gains by learners within the funding arrangements for tertiary education as part of the wider tertiary education system reforms."

The scale, difficulty and sensitivity of the performance element project will require effective stakeholder involvement, and its success is critically dependent on achieving a good degree of buy-in from the sector. Experience overseas, particularly from the UK, suggest that a performance funding system will be less stable if it is centrally imposed and if there is little or no support from the sector.

We are therefore proposing to undertake a staged process for the development of the indicators and their implementation.

The Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission convened a small technical working party charged with making a recommendation as to a preferred option for suitable performance indicators.

This working party had its final meeting last week and the report is currently being finalised. I hope to publish the technical working party's proposal before the end of the year if at all possible, and put to a wider sector representative group who will make recommendations to Ministers. I expect that AUS will be fully involved in this process and look forward to engaging with the sector on the shape and form of this critical initiative.

[Slide 10 - Next Steps?]

I said at the start of this speech that I wanted to look at some "next steps" in terms of investigating other pathways for pursuing and encouraging excellence in teaching and learning. Some of the developments we see in other jurisdictions offer some possible options.

Australia has recently announced that a new National Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education will be established as a national focus for the enhancement of learning and teaching.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is currently in the process of bringing three existing agencies together to form a new Academy for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The academy's overarching role will be to support continuous professional development for teaching by:

- sponsoring and developing good practice,

- setting professional standards,

- conducting and developing policy on teaching and learning; and

- accrediting training.

In relation to that last point, by 2006 the British government wants all new university teaching staff to have received accredited training.

Are there lessons here for us?

Should the New Zealand government be looking at establishing some sort of overall "academy' or "national institute' to support the development of teaching? Or should we focus first at the individual subject level?

Should we consider making funding available for the professional development of teachers within the tertiary education sector?

Should we expect new entrants to the tertiary teaching workforce to attain accredited teacher status?

Both the Tertiary Education Commission and myself are giving thought to these sort of questions at the moment and I'd be interested in your feedback.

[Slide 11 - Conclusion]


I think that this is an exciting time to be involved in the sector and you, as university staffers, are at the forefront of the changes this government is committed to seeing though. You will contribute to the development of more effective leadership in the sector, improved community responsiveness to meet development needs, and sector growth directed towards New Zealand's national objectives.

Once again, I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak at your Conference. As I said earlier, the relationship with AUS is an important one for me and the Government. I now invite you to make use of the remaining time we have and address to me any questions you might like to ask.

Thank you.


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