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July 20, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Students Get Bad Rep

A Select Committee has recommended the Government’s Education Amendment Bill pass with no suggested amendments to the controversial changes to university governance.

The Education Amendment Bill would cut down university councils to no more than 12 members, and remove current requirements for student and staff representation. The changes would come into effect from the beginning of 2016.

Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce told Salient that he thought that universities would still have student representatives on their councils.

“We should trust the councils and the universities to make the call about their own constitutions… We already trust them with billions of taxpayer dollars, so we should trust them to make the right calls for their institution,” Joyce said.

The Labour Party’s minority view on the Bill outlined their opposition to university-governance changes.

“At no point in the process of submissions has there been either a sufficient explanation for the proposed changes to tertiary-institution governance or the mischief they are designed to remedy.”

“Allowing student and staff representation is very different from prescribing it in law… In addition, concerns were expressed regarding the impact of the number of ministerial appointees to councils.”

The Green Party also stated their strong opposition to the Bill in its current form, saying that “there was a tiny minority of submitters who saw any value in the changes proposed around tertiary governance,” but a “huge range” of submitters who had opposed the changes.

“The Green Party rejects the Bill’s plan to cut numbers on councils, and give the Minister of Education huge powers to appoint and remove board members.”

NZUSA have also been strident in their opposition to the changes. President Daniel Haines said that the changes were “wrongheaded and unnecessary.”

“Of the 1568 individual submissions and 298 oral submissions, only one supported these widely condemned reforms,” Haines said.

VUWSA President Sonya Clark was also critical, saying it was “pretty shocking to see that the Select Committee ignore the views of students, of tertiary institutions… of all those who know best how universities work. This is a sad day for the student voice, and a sad day for the independence of universities.”

In response to the Committee’s report, Joyce said he wanted to “make sure that university and wānanga councils are able to respond quickly and effectively to the various strategic challenges facing the tertiary-education sector. Smaller, skills-based councils will better enable them to do this.”

“The changes will give universities and wānanga more flexibility to reflect their unique stakeholders on their councils and tailor their councils to their specific needs.”

Now that the Bill has been reported back, it will move to a second reading in Parliament. For more information about the Bill, visit: www.minedu.govt.nz/EducationAmendmentBill.

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