web analytics
The Standard

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

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

1 2 3 7

  • John Key now admits no broad support for RMA changes
    John Key has now been forced to admit that he never had the broad political support to gut the Resource Management Act, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson Megan Woods. “Cornerstone legislation such as the RMA should never be changed without genuine… ...
    16 hours ago
  • National’s changes leave student bodies in chaos
    The chaos created by National’s scrapping of compulsory student association membership may force the 86-year old Union of Students Association to fold, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson David Cunliffe says. “National’s 2011 Voluntary Student Membership Act has left student associations with… ...
    17 hours ago
  • Tragedy must be impetus for better training
    The Police Minister needs to explain why unsworn and inadequately trained custody officers were put in a situation of caring for a medically unwell prisoner on a busy Saturday night, Labour’s Police spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Commenting on an IPCA… ...
    4 days ago
  • Government must be more transparent on investor state clauses
    The Government must be more transparent around the draft investor state dispute settlements in the TPPA, says David Parker, Labour’s Export Growth and Trade spokesperson. “Labour is pro trade, and is proud of the FTA we negotiated with China, which… ...
    4 days ago
  • Protect university staff and student voices
    The Green Party believes ensuring student and staff representation on university councils is important. National recently passed a law reducing the size of university governance councils while increasing the proportion of the members nominated by, guess who… Steven Joyce. The… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    5 days ago
  • C’mon Nick what’s the truth on the RMA
     “Nick Smith has got to fess up and tell us what is happening to his much vaunted RMA reform, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Megan Woods says.  “With just a day and a half to go before the polls open in Northland,… ...
    5 days ago
  • SSC salaries sink National’s spending spin
    Massive pay rises at the State Services Commission prove National’s claims of clamping down on spending in the public sector are simply fantasy, Labour’s State Services spokesman Kris Faafoi says. “Salaries in this one department are almost $70,000 more than… ...
    5 days ago
  • We can fix Christchurch and keep our assets
    The Christchurch City Council is seeking public feedback on its proposed 10 year plan for Council revenue and spending. This is probably one of the most significant 10 year plans ever to be written by a local council because of… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    5 days ago
  • Epidemic of serious assaults in our prisons
    Labour wants stab proof vests and pepper spray for all corrections officers to keep them safe from the epidemic of serious prison assaults that are occurring around the country’s jails, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis.  “There have been five… ...
    5 days ago
  • Listen to the locals Hekia!
    Minister Hekia Parata needs to understand what consultation is, Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson says. “It means you have to listen to what people say in their submissions and then be able to demonstrate you have considered their views when… ...
    6 days ago
  • Thanking our caregivers
    Let’s celebrate and thank our caregivers. This week is caregivers’ week. It’s a chance to acknowledge the thousands of women, and occasional other person, who are caring for the elderly and disabled in our country. They hold people’s lives in… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    6 days ago
  • Mana Post shop the best outcome for community
    Labour MP for Mana Kris Faafoi has welcomed the move to place the services from the Mana Post shop to a local small business. “This is the best outcome for the community we could ask for. All the vital services… ...
    6 days ago
  • Labour looks to put the tea back into entitlements
    Labour is moving to restore the rights of Kiwis to take tea and rest breaks, Leader Andrew Little says. “Within months of the Government’s Employment Relations Amendment Bill becoming law we are already seeing some of our largest companies, including… ...
    6 days ago
  • Desperate money grab to keep Ruataniwha afloat
    The Hawke’s Bay Regional Investment Company’s decision to borrow $4 million to keep the Ruataniwha project afloat is a case of throwing ratepayer’s good money after bad, says Labour’s Water spokesperson Meka Whaitiri and Napier MP Stuart Nash.   “This bridging… ...
    7 days ago
  • Roundup: UN finds it “probably” causes cancer
    At last the UN has spoken out against the widely-used weedkiller Roundup. The UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified glyphosate, the principle ingredient in Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. They also include as probable carcinogens the insecticides&hellip; ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    7 days ago
  • Invermay petition delivered to Parliament
    Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark handed over a 12,450 signature Save Invermay petition to Dunedin South MP Clare Curran on the steps of Parliament today.  “The level of support that the petition has received across New Zealand is overwhelming,”… ...
    7 days ago
  • Redcliffs School closure plan wrong
    The Government’s proposal to consult on the closure of Redcliffs School not only goes against the best geotechnical advice, but more importantly goes against the best educational outcomes for Redcliffs children and the health of our community, Port Hills MP… ...
    7 days ago
  • Cotton On first to test the tea breaks law
    Australian corporate Cotton On, the first major business operating in New Zealand to exploit the new tea breaks law, could walk away from negotiations if it doesn’t get its own way, says Labour Party Labour Relations spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.  “Cotton… ...
    1 week ago
  • World water day: eight rivers in one day
    Our photo journey started by the Waioweka (also known as Waioeka) River which flows from Te Urewera to Opotiki, and is surrounded by beautiful forest. The water looked great! Kopeopeo Canal It contrasted greatly with the Kopeopeo Canal near Whakatane,… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Council can stop Port’s encroachment on harbour
    As owner of the Port of Auckland, Council can stop the wharf extension and reclamation if it wants to, says Labour’s Auckland Issues spokesperson Phil Goff. ‘As owner the council is custodian of the port and harbour on behalf of… ...
    1 week ago
  • We all benefit when education meets everyone’s needs
    As Dyslexia week comes to a close,  Dyslexia NZ have reminded us that around 10% of our citizens are dyslexic and are entitled to better support. One of their strongest arguments is that failure to provide identification and support for… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Big change starts small
    Today marks Race Relations Day in New Zealand. Race Relations Day coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The United Nations General Assembly chose this day as it marks the day in 1960 when 69 peaceful… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Israel, Palestine and the question of statehood
    The knife-edge election in Israel complicates the Middle East situation, even more than usual. The Prime Minister-elect, Binyamin Netanyahu, is moving to form a government. Netanyahu has indicated that, during his term, a Palestinian state would not be established. That… ...
    GreensBy Kennedy Graham MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Christchurch transport goes backwards
    The Green Party has a vision of a liveable, accessible Christchurch with a sense of identity and strong connected communities. Instead, 2013 census figures released by Statistics New Zealand reveal a fractured community, and tell a story of frustrated Christchurch commuters… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Super Fund should divest $140 million in high risk coal
    The Green Party is calling on the New Zealand Super Fund to divest their $140 million investment in coal companies that are vulnerable to becoming financially stranded according to a damning new report from Oxford University. The Smith School of… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Learn to count with Mark Osborne: 0 + 1 = ?
    The adage about the first casualty of war being truth is one that might often be applied to the political battle for hearts and minds, and of course votes. A rather unfortunate example of this has been arriving in the… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Is it still a safety net when the holes are this big?
    Over the last few weeks I’ve been wondering how safe our income support system is for people, especially those with cognitive or learning disabilities. I’ve been trying to support a young man who was severely injured in a workplace accident… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Pasifika – protecting the Pacific needed now more than ever.
    Over the weekend thousands of Aucklanders flocked to celebrate our city’s diverse Pacific communities and cultures at the annual Pasifika festival and the Greens were there to join them. The Pasifika festival has been held every year for 23… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Sounds Stakeholders Seek a Sustainable Future
    It was heartening to see a large number of people who care about the Marlborough Sounds come together at the Marlborough Marine Futures’ forum in Picton on March 8. Fellow Green MP Steffan Browning, who lives in Marlborough, and I… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Solid Energy, who will clean up the mess?
    What can you say? This state-owned coal miner is facing some very serious problems. They haven’t run a profit in years, have required two Government bailouts, laid-off more than 700 staff and look like they need a third injection of… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    3 weeks ago

Removed at the request of The Daily Blog.
Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere