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May 21, 2012 | by  | in News |
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Student Reps Face Axe

Joyce chops it like it’s hot

Compulsory student representation could be removed from university councils following a government led review.

Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce says that university councils are too big; “They’re potentially a bit large and unwieldy”.

Work has already begun on a review of the country’s eight university councils.

”I want to see the universities take a more entrepreneurial approach. We need them to step up and take advantage of some of these opportunities,” Joyce said.

Governance of the country’s polytechnics had already been reformed, which had turned around academic and financial performance in that sector, he said.

However, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) believes that government reforms will harm the independence and academic freedom of university councils.

The TEU has set up the online Petition ‘Keep our university councils democratic’. They say that reforms of polytechnic councils led to the removal of staff, student, union and iwi representatives.

TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey warns that reforming university councils could lead to the same sort of waste and bureaucracy that similar reforms created in polytechnics.

“Why would the government want to replace diverse, democratically elected people who have a range of skills and a passion for their local university, with a more expensive, less diverse team of ministerially-appointed bureaucrats?” Grey said.

Labour spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Grant Robertson believes that reducing the size of university councils is bad news for students.

“When National took the axe to Polytechnic Councils last term, it was students and community members who got the chop. It will likely be the same for universities,” Robertson said.

“The approach to reforms reflected an “accountant’s eye, seeing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

“Universities are not simply sausage factories pumping out products. They are an important part of our democratic society, supporting accountability and transparency.”

Joyce announced last week that the May 24 Budget would include a review of university councils, as well as reforms to the student loan repayment rate and the student allowance eligibility, and a review of the Performance Based Research Fund.

The TEU’s petition can be found at teu.ac.nz.

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