FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Council's bill an opportunity to restore polytech student voice
15 October 2015
Media Release: New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations is welcoming the drawing of David Cunliffe’s Education (Restoration of Democracy to University Councils) Bill which would restore mandatory staff and student representation to New Zealand’s eight universities and three wananga.
The bill would return university councils to their 1989-2015 form.
“Staff and students are important voices in ensuring the institution served the community. It was bizarre that the Minister removed mandatory staff and student voices earlier this year without a shred of evidence and in the face of total opposition from the sector.”
NZUSA President Rory McCourt says sending Mr Cunliffe’s bill to select committee would give Parliament an opportunity to extend the flexibility and democracy proposed for universities in the bill to polytechnics who had their councils shrunk to eight councillors, with the Minister appointing half, in 2010.
“We know that since students have been kicked off polytech councils they’ve been side-lined and their voice shut down. One polytechnic students’ association after another has been let down by institutions that have forgotten why they exist – for the students.”
Mr McCourt says discussion on the bill also opens the opportunity to improve training and support for student representatives on councils.
“This bill needs to get to select committee so we can add vital elements that make the student voice effective as well as required. We are confident there are compromises to be had that restore key voices without simply returning to councils of 30 people.”
The bill repeals the changes made by the current Government to the Education Act in February this year, which allowed each institution to decide who would be represented on their councils.
“This year we saw seven of the eight universities decide their students’ association presidents were the best voice for their students. That’s a ringing endorsement of the efficacy of New Zealand’s students’ associations on behalf of our thousands of students.”
“Now it’s time to and lock it in mandatory staff and student representation at universities, and extend it to our polytechs and wananga.”
Mr McCourt says the union will be reaching out to MPs on all sides to discuss workable contributions to the bill to ensure it gets the support necessary.
“Staff and student voice shouldn’t be a political football. It’s time for a sensible, enduring consensus.”