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March 23, 2009 | by  | in News |
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Government “doesn’t really want to engage” with students

Students will have less of a say if frontline jobs are axed at the Tertiary Education Commission.

The TEC, which implements the Government’s tertiary education policies, is currently considering a restructuring proposal which would see staff numbers reduced by twenty percent, with 76 positions disestablished and a further 24positions created.

Frontline jobs would be hardest hit, with the disestablishment of around fifty stakeholder engagement positions.

A further 30 existing vacancies would not be filled.

The restructuring proposal, which is currently in the staff consultation process, also recommends the closure of the TEC’s regional offices in Christchurch and Rotorua. Labour Party Tertiary Education spokesperson Maryan Street says the TEC restructuring would “dismantle the stakeholder engagement unit altogether.”

Students, tertiary education providers and local communities would have fewer opportunities to provide feedback to the TEC on policy implementation and the allocation of funds, she says.

She describes the restructuring as “indicative of where the Government is going in its accessibility to students. It doesn’t really want to engage.

“Students need to be able to have a say.”

The restructuring “impacts directly on existing students,” she says.

“The quality of the education delivered to students will not be monitored close to the ground, and that’s a concern, because every student in New Zealand wants to know that what they’re getting is a reputable degree.”

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations Co-President Jordan King says he is “disappointed and actually quite appalled that they’re looking to target stakeholder engagement.”

While the TEC has shown “a real willingness and openness to engage on issues” in the past, King says the restructuring proposal is “a step backwards.”

“Over the last four of five years a lot of progress has been made … This is going to put a strain on that relationship and that sort of engagement.”

King says the Government is effectively deregulating the tertiary sector by putting the onus on individual institutions to engage with stakeholders.

“It’s almost letting tertiary education institutes off the hook. They weren’t doing engagement very well in the first place, and the TEC mechanism was a way for that to take place at a national level.”

King also expressed concern over how the TEC cuts fit into the Government’s broader Tertiary Education Strategy. “The National Government’s entire plans for tertiary education are quite unclear,” he says.

TEC spokesperson Jude Urlich would not discuss the details of the restructuring proposal, although a press release states the TEC “retains a commitment to working with the tertiary education sector to enhance education outcomes, with a clear focus on quality and relevance.”

Further details of the restructuring will not be released until 2 April.

A spokesperson for Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley said the Minister would not comment on the TEC restructuring before the announcement of this year’s Budget.

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