web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

One step too far

Written By: - Date published: 10:30 am, November 20th, 2012 - 17 comments
Categories: tertiary education - Tags:

The minister for tertiary education, Stephen  Joyce, may think he’s above the law but we don’t.

He has told the New Zealand Herald “he would step in to force change at Auckland University” if necessary. What change does he want to force?  He wants to determine what the university teaches.

This threat shows the minister has little regard for New Zealand’s Education Act in which it is declared that the intention of Parliament in enacting the provisions of this Act is “that academic freedom and the autonomy of institutions are to be preserved and enhanced.”

By saying he will “be more directive” with the University of Auckland with regard to the subjects they teach, the Minister is trampling over this institutional autonomy and over academic freedom.  This is major attack on democracy.

Universities and other tertiary education providers have institutional autonomy in order to ensure that these institutions are able to critique governments, politicians, and Ministers, as well as others who hold power in New Zealand. Without institutional autonomy, and with threats such as the Minister has made that “I’m watching them [the University of Auckland] really closely”, our universities will become puppets of the state.

This is not in the best interests of the public, the economy, or our students. To meet the diverse needs of all New Zealanders and our complex society, education decisions rightly belong with the students, communities, and staff for whom our public universities were set up.

TEU rarely finds itself on the side of vice-chancellors these days, but in this case we back University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon, who is clearly stating that teaching decisions should be made by the university not the minister.

It is difficult to get a balance between autonomy and control in the tertiary education sector. It is naïve to think the state would bankroll the sector without attention to how money is spent, but there must be a balance between control and freedom (Hedley 2010: 132). We believe that the harm the government is causing in tertiary education now is evidence that the balance has shifted too far towards heavy-handed government steering.

The government’s heavy-handed steering of the tertiary education sector – no matter how often shrouded in myths about meeting the needs of students and employers  – is stifling academic freedom (Codd 2001: 17); limited the choices of students and communities;  and narrowly focused research on ‘business’ while in turn devaluing the democratic role of our universities.

Heavy-handed steering has a negative impact on the autonomy so crucial to a flourishing tertiary education sector. The government is creating processes to determine strategic direction at the expense of ensuring that the sector has the freedom to teach and research, unhampered by whatever political ideology has currency (OECD 2008: 42).

And in fact other politicians know that the sector requires a light hand. Steve Maharey (the Education Minister responsible for introducing ‘steering’ through TEC and now vice-chancellor of Massey University) noted “What the government is looking for from TEC is firm but unobtrusive steerage of the whole system towards relevance, excellence, access, capability, and collaboration” (in Mahoney 2003: 15). And in 2006 then shadow minister for education Bill English stated: “Tertiary institutions should advocate for a much-simplified system with less central bureaucratic discretion, certain sanctions, and greater institutional autonomy. They should be demanding that central government stick to quality monitoring and funding limits until it can demonstrate that its own strategic processes can in fact add value to the institutions.”

So Minister Joyce must take a step back from his current approach to tertiary education institutions.  He must uphold the intent of the Education Act, defend democracy, and let universities respond to his broad directives in the way they see most fit. If he allows institutional autonomy and academic freedom to flourish he will be doing the best  for students, communities, the economy, and the university staff whom work exceptionally hard to protect and promote quality public tertiary education.

Sandra Grey

TEU national president

17 comments on “One step too far”

  1. karol 1

    Good post.  I totally agree on the need to maintain educational independence: a democracy thrives on free and open debate, based on sound research and enquiry.

    Joyce’s approach is just another neoliberal push to make education subservient to the market.  Education is not just for jobs.  It is to enable democratic participation, social inclusion, life-long learning and informed citizenship.

    • euboulia 1.1

      This fight was lost a long time ago. As I understand it, the long term plan is to have Auckland and Otago have a small core of traditional university subjects, while the other “universities” (Vic to a lesser extent) become vocational schools. The UK is going the same way. There’s no point fighting this when you already lost a long time ago.

      People who want to learn about things like the Liberal Arts will no doubt be directed to free online courses of the type currently being run by Stanford (among others). Some of these are quite good.

      This may not be a bad thing in the long run. Having these areas subject to an increasingly hostile authority has not been good for them.

      Sure, Joyce is a resentful oaf, but he’s only getting to do this because a sufficient number of voters are resentful oafs who’ve long wanted to stick it to the cultured and educated.

  2. Well National has been undermining tertiary education for a long time, it hasn’t provided needed additional funding so the course fees have been forced to rise (which has hurt students in the pocket) and courses have been cut; the worst case being the university of Canterbury. NZ is going to slide internationally, unless moves are taken to substantially increase funding; which will never happen under an austerity government like National.

  3. Check out our TEU petition ( http://teu.ac.nz/2012/11/academic-freedom-petition ) which we have set up to tell the minister he can’t threaten universities into doing what he says.

  4. Check out our TEU petition (at the link above) which we have set up to tell the minister he can’t threaten universities into doing what he says.

  5. r0b 5

    Thank you Sandra – great to see you posting here – and you are representing my union very well on this issue.

  6. Ant 6

    Sounds more like an attempt to drive down the cost of employing engineers by increasing supply – which is classic Joyce stupidity, we’ll just end up exporting our graduates.

    From what i’ve seen it doesn’t look like there’s an actual shortage of people graduating – most engineering grads I have spoken too have said that finding a job is pretty competitive as it is.

  7. Rogue Trooper 7

    Joyce will get more joy from the Canterbury VC

    If the salaries for recent graduates identified in the Herald are representative of actual New Zealand incomes, then I am horrified; mechanics can easily attract and earn 150% of those salaries. I hope, like me, most people do not enter university study primarily for employment and income; disappointment awaits.

    however, the professional capture of capital by the medical, legal, commerce and consulting sectors, for example, now that’s another matter….

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      And a grad mechanic won’t have a $30K student debt to start life off with…

      University is a shit career choice for many nowadays.

    • McFlock 7.2

      The distinction between professions and trades has steadily diminished over the last 20 years. True, you might get BComs or lawyers who make a mint, but then you also get builders or plumbers who leverage, get lucky (i.e. don’t overplay their hand or get their arse sued by a customer) and end up with a sizeable business to retire on.
             
           
      A mate of mine has a story about how he was working in a factory that got shut down. He was offered the chance to relocate and drive forklifts, but he said “nope I’ll take redundancy, go to uni and better myself”. One MA later, his colleague who took relocation was ≈$400k better off than the one who chose education. True, he’ll eake it back over the next 20 years, but really there’s not much difference between the two at the end of the day. 

      • bbfloyd 7.2.1

        I have to ask, is the person who chose to re-educate himself in a happier place? As in, is he happier with the career he is pursuing now? Is it in an area that he feels more appropriate for his particular skill set, and personality??

        And if he is, is that not more important in the long run than just chasing the money?

        Consider the example he sets for his children by making the effort to position himself in a more natural setting for himself…. one that allows him to be the person he should be, rather than one having to deal with the imbalance that an inappropriate career path ineviably induces…..

        Is the money the only thing that counts anymore???

        • McFlock 7.2.1.1

          Difficult to tell, really. 
                 
          I know a few folk who are builders, plasterers etc but read in their spare time. On the flipside, I recall reading Plato’s Republic some time before doing a paper on it, and realised in the paper that I’d missed 90% of the nuances.
                
          Not to mention that sometimes varsity politics can get absolutely vicious – much more than I’ve ever encountered elsewhere. Even the current BS in Labour and TS kommentariat is minor compared to some of the stuff I encountered at Uni.
                   
          So really, it could be either way. Tertiary education is not always the road to happy enlightenment and fulfilment that liberals often believe it to be. But it <strong>is</strong> a right that should be taxpayer funded, be it metaphysics or welding.

  8. JonL 8

    “Is the money the only thing that counts anymore???”
    Since when has it been any different……..to 90% of the population, anyway.

  9. DS1 9

    So much for the invisible hand of market forces.

    • IMESSAGE 9.1

      The ‘invisible hand of market forces’ applies to the private market only and has nothing to do with this. If the UoA were a private university then the government would have no influence over what they choose to teach. However as the UoA requires tremendous amounts of taxpayer funding to support their activity, the taxpayer, via their elected Minister, should be entitled to guide their activities with a completely ‘visible hand’.

      • felix 9.1.1

        Same goes for every business in the country then.

        Unless of course you can think of one that doesn’t rely on enormous amounts of state funding…

      • McFlock 9.1.2

        Nope.
                 
        Paying money does not entitle a government to guide tertiary education. Just as it does not entitle the government to “guide” which people are prosecuted because it funds the police. 
           
        And the stakes are the same.

Links to post

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Dunedin Hospital needs more than drip feed
    An ongoing and embarrassing pattern of major building leaks and equipment failures at Dunedin Public Hospital has been revealed in papers released under the Official Information Act, Dunedin North MP David Clark says. “Documents released under the Official Information Act… ...
    20 hours ago
  • Dunedin Hospital needs more than drip feed
    An ongoing and embarrassing pattern of major building leaks and equipment failures at Dunedin Public Hospital has been revealed in papers released under the Official Information Act, Dunedin North MP David Clark says. “Documents released under the Official Information Act… ...
    20 hours ago
  • 17 too young for teens to be shown the door
    Laws which see young people under the care of CYFS abandoned once they turn 17 will mean at least a dozen young Kiwis will be left to fend for themselves over the December festive season, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda  Ardern… ...
    20 hours ago
  • 17 too young for teens to be shown the door
    Laws which see young people under the care of CYFS abandoned once they turn 17 will mean at least a dozen young Kiwis will be left to fend for themselves over the December festive season, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda  Ardern… ...
    20 hours ago
  • National’s albatross, taxpayers’ curse
    Government consideration of further corporate welfare hand-outs to SkyCity for its convention centre shows just how weak the original contract was, Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark says. “Taxpayers will be appalled to hear that on top of the humiliating… ...
    21 hours ago
  • Recognizing Palestine: The European Parliament Votes
    Last week I wrote a blog drawing attention to Sweden’s formal recognition of the state of Palestine (the second Western state to do so after Iceland).  That move has created ripples throughout the international community. In recent months the parliaments… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    4 days ago
  • Recognizing Palestine: The European Parliament Votes
    Last week I wrote a blog drawing attention to Sweden’s formal recognition of the state of Palestine (the second Western state to do so after Iceland).  That move has created ripples throughout the international community. In recent months the parliaments… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    4 days ago
  • Recognizing Palestine: The European Parliament Votes
    Last week I wrote a blog drawing attention to Sweden’s formal recognition of the state of Palestine (the second Western state to do so after Iceland).  That move has created ripples throughout the international community. In recent months the parliaments… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    4 days ago
  • Minister has work to do over Xmas
    Red flags raised in a multi-agency review into how Phillip Smith was able to flee the country highlight the inadequacies of those very same agencies not having red flags in place that would have notified them of his plans, says… ...
    4 days ago
  • Minister has work to do over Xmas
    Red flags raised in a multi-agency review into how Phillip Smith was able to flee the country highlight the inadequacies of those very same agencies not having red flags in place that would have notified them of his plans, says… ...
    4 days ago
  • Minister has work to do over Xmas
    Red flags raised in a multi-agency review into how Phillip Smith was able to flee the country highlight the inadequacies of those very same agencies not having red flags in place that would have notified them of his plans, says… ...
    4 days ago
  • Gerry Brownlee’s revolving airport door story
    A new report shows Gerry Brownlee is the latest Cabinet Minister to have contracted the infectious tell-porkies-until-you-are-caught disease, Labour’s Chief Whip Chris Hipkins says. “A Civil Aviation Report out today shows that despite being an extremely recognisable figure, Gerry Brownlee… ...
    4 days ago
  • Gerry Brownlee’s revolving airport door story
    A new report shows Gerry Brownlee is the latest Cabinet Minister to have contracted the infectious tell-porkies-until-you-are-caught disease, Labour’s Chief Whip Chris Hipkins says. “A Civil Aviation Report out today shows that despite being an extremely recognisable figure, Gerry Brownlee… ...
    4 days ago
  • Govt spend on transport out of step with reality
    The National Government is planning to allocate ever increasing amounts of taxpayer funding to build expensive new motorways despite record numbers of New Zealanders flocking to buses and trains, said the Green Party. The Government released its Government Policy Statement… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter MP
    5 days ago
  • Govt spend on transport out of step with reality
    The National Government is planning to allocate ever increasing amounts of taxpayer funding to build expensive new motorways despite record numbers of New Zealanders flocking to buses and trains, said the Green Party. The Government released its Government Policy Statement… ...
    GreensBy Julie Anne Genter MP
    5 days ago
  • Solar homes stymied by Govt inaction
    Government inaction is allowing the big power companies to discourage the nascent solar power sector, the Green Party said today. Green Party MP Gareth Hughes launched a petition today calling on the Government to empower the Electricity Authority to act… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    5 days ago
  • Foreign buyers for iconic island must add value
    Labour will look very closely at any Overseas Investment Office application to purchase Pakatoa Island if it is not bought by a Kiwi, says Labour’s Land information Spokesperson Stuart Nash. “Pakatoa is an iconic island in the middle of Hauraki… ...
    5 days ago
  • Way opening for April Sun in Cuba
    The United States of America’s President’s historic announcement yesterday to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba should be applauded by the New Zealand Government. The announcement marks a turning point in more than five decades of hostility between the two countries… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    5 days ago
  • Minister ducking for cover over ‘Diplomat Case’
    Apparently the Ministerial Inquiry into what now seems to be being referred to as ‘The Diplomat Case’ ( I have a few other names for it) has been completed and is in front of Foreign Affairs Minister McCully. Initial Reports seem to… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    5 days ago
  • Energy users need answers on Vector share plans
    Energy Minister Simon Bridges needs to stop ducking for cover about whether or not the Government will support plans to nationalise and then privatise $2.1 billion of shares in the Auckland Electricity Consumer Trust, Labour's Energy spokesperson Stuart Nash says. “It… ...
    6 days ago
  • Biosecurity it’s everyone’s responsibility
    Biosecurity costs New Zealand millions of dollars in attempting pest eradication and much more in ongoing management of pests in farming, horticulture, beekeeping and conservation, as well as in our own backyards and recreation areas. More work must happen at… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    6 days ago
  • Is the Health Minister accountable to the public? He doesn’t seem to thin...
    Lately I’ve been involved in a sort of farcical standoff with the Health Minister, who seems to be under the illusion that I have no right to ask questions about conflicts involving Health Promotion Agency Board member Katherine Rich, and… ...
    GreensBy Kevin Hague MP
    7 days ago
  • Irresponsible tax cuts lead to seventh successive deficit
    National's borrowing to pay for cutting the top tax rate was irresponsible and will likely lead to a seventh successive deficit, the Green Party said today. Treasury have forecast a $572 million deficit this year in its Half Year Economic… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    7 days ago
  • Heartfelt sympathy for Sydneysiders
    The Labour Party has offered its heartfelt sympathy to the people of Sydney after the hostage situation in the city, says Labour’s Acting leader Grant Robertson.  “Our thoughts are with all those who went through this horrific and traumatic experience. ...
    7 days ago
  • Farewell at Phillipstown
    Last Wednesday, I attended the farewell for Tony Simpson, Principal of Phillipstown School. It was a very emotional event where many of us in the large crowd shed tears. Bagpipes and tiny tamariki performing kapahaka brought the house down and… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Farewell at Phillipstown
    Last Wednesday, I attended the farewell for Tony Simpson, Principal of Phillipstown School. It was a very emotional event where many of us in the large crowd shed tears. Bagpipes and tiny tamariki performing kapahaka brought the house down and… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • The CIA Torture Report
    Earlier this week, the United States Select Committee on Intelligence released the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.  The report, which was five years in the making, looked into the CIA’s interrogation techniques from 2001… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    1 week ago
  • The CIA Torture Report
    Earlier this week, the United States Select Committee on Intelligence released the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.  The report, which was five years in the making, looked into the CIA’s interrogation techniques from 2001… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    1 week ago
  • Labour applauds High Court decision on Ruataniwha
    Today’s decision by the High Court on the Ruataniwha scheme is a victory for NewZealand’s environmental groups, says Labour’s Conservation spokesperson RuthDyson. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Welfare system out of date and out of touch
    A new Child Poverty Action Group report released today highlights another example of how our outmoded social welfare system is harming kids, says Labour’s Social Development Spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.  “The complexities of how a ‘relationship’ is defined in the welfare… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • James Shaw’s adjournment speech on behalf of the Green Party
    It is a great honour for me to speak on behalf of the Green Party in this adjournment debate. I thank my colleagues for the privilege. I became a MP only 12 weeks ago, a period of time that seems… ...
    GreensBy James Shaw MP
    2 weeks ago
  • A Tale of Two Farms
    Pig farming has yet again been thrust into the public view with two programmes this week on Campbell Live highlighting the very different conditions for pigs on two very different farms. The first programme exposed the awful conditions on&hellip; ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    2 weeks ago

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere