web analytics

Academic quality under attack

Written By: - Date published: 1:29 pm, August 24th, 2011 - 24 comments
Categories: education - Tags: ,

Over recent months we have seen sustained attack on the professional autonomy of those working in the tertiary education sector.

Most recently the vice-chancellor of one of the University of Auckland, Stuart McCutcheon, is insisting that academic staff be subject to ‘managerial will’ in regard important conditions for research and research-led teaching. Auckland’s vice-chancellor (despite having once been an academic) seems to see no connection between the professional autonomy of the academic community at Auckland and the quality of the research and teaching there. Giving academics professional autonomy over conditions such as research leave and promotions, means they can pursue innovative research, even if it does not squarely meet the latest strategic plan or government directive. Pursuing research is necessary if we want creative new knowledge that underpins what we teach in universities.

At a range of polytechnics, chief executives are trying to remove access to professional development leave, which keeps our trades and training educators connected to their professions and the standards expected by leading practitioners. The time which polytechnic staff have to keep up with the latest techniques and skills in their professions, provided for under what is strangely called discretionary leave, has a direct impact on ensuring the latest cutting edge skills and techniques are passed on to students.

And at my own institution, Victoria University of Wellington, a range of academic programmes have been closed or reorganised with no academic input and no real consideration of the research and teaching needs of the institution and the New Zealand community. It is crucial that staff, alongside students, have a say in the courses that we teach at an institution, for it is us who know what is happening currently in our academic disciplines around the globe.

These attacks on the professional autonomy of staff responsible for research and teaching matter. Professional autonomy ensures world-class tertiary education in New Zealand. It matters to staff because it is about their ability to meet the professional academic standards set by their peers and colleagues from around the world. It matters to students because staff who are at the cutting edge of our profession are ones who have access to leave – to complete research, learn the latest industry practices, network with professional colleagues – and who bring that knowledge back into the classroom. And all of this matters for New Zealand if we want to continue to have innovative university and polytechnic graduates.

The professionals who staff universities and polytechnics in New Zealand should stand alongside other professions in New Zealand – such as doctors and nurses, lawyers, primary and secondary teachers, accountants, and engineers. We, the public, charge each of these professions with maintaining the quality of their profession through bodies such as the nursing councils and the Law Society. Experts in each of these fields are the best judge of what is needed to maintain quality. And the professional autonomy of those who teach and research in New Zealand tertiary institutions should be respected in the same way.

Professional autonomy does not mean that individual teachers and researchers can do as we please. In fact, throughout our careers, our peers put us through rigorous evaluations. Any time an academic seeks funding for a new project we must submit our ideas for review by panels of our peers (including colleagues both from New Zealand and around the world). If new knowledge is to be shared with the international research community it is put through rigorous peer reviewing where colleagues examine the arguments and evidence backing up the new knowledge before it is published. And the programmes taught within universities undergo rigorous reviews where experts examine the syllabi, speak with students about the quality of teaching, look through the CVs of academics and how they connect their teaching and research, and examine the quality of marking carried out in the academic programme to make sure it is in line with best practice internationally.

Those of us working in tertiary education take great care to ensure our teaching and research meets international standards; and that we hold their colleagues to account for the quality of work they carry out.

It is professional autonomy which means New Zealand has world-class universities and high quality vocational education training. Just as doctors vet which of their colleagues get to stay in the profession and lawyers decide who can practice law, academics and teachers at universities and polytechnics are the best placed to judge the teaching and research work of our peers and to make sure we maintain high standards.

Academics don’t want to say who should win American Idol or who should win an OSCAR – we are happy to leave that to the experts in those fields. Likewise, ‘managers’ of the tertiary sector should trust the professionals they hire to continue to ensure the quality teaching and research in New Zealand.

– Sandra Grey, TEU

24 comments on “Academic quality under attack ”

  1. Vicky32 1

    You’re absolutely right…
    Not everything is about ‘business’…

  2. ianmac 2

    Well. If all those working in the Tertiary area were put onto TNS (Tertiary National Standards), then we could see just where the problems lie and all those lecturers who underachieve can be taken aside and spanked. This would of course allow clever polititians to set the Standards and at last the taxpayers would rejoice as they would get just what they have been demanding.
    Sounds facetious? Just modelled on the actions so far of the National machine.

    • Ed 2.1

      Such actions are only valid for state-owned tertiary institutions, ianmac – if it is a private provider then of course they don’t need any standards . . .they can just pocket subsidies.

  3. tc 3

    In chatting to a tertiary employee not long after Sideshow gained the big chair for the best photo opp’s they reckoned the exodus had begun as unlike the bulk of the electorate the acedemics have intelligence and had more than an inkling of what was on the way….the knowledge wave goodbye.

  4. prism 4

    The generic managerial approach seems to encompass anything. It surely was a manager who sacked a favourite weather forecaster for making unrehearsed, unpaid comments about the weather. The learning institutions management are focussed on budgets and not the best thing for the entity. And the people in charge of budgets don’t really operate on any new ideas, they tend to hark back a way to say a century ago, except they use new technology. So they don’t have a receptive mind to wide learning it ends up vocationally-focussed with them.

  5. Rich 5

    The other thing that’ll happen is that we’ll catch the league table virus from Britain and America.

    At the moment, most courses are more or less open – if an undergrad’s qualified, they can go to Auckland, Vic, Massey or wherever. But that’s changing as NACT cut numbers, so you’ll find that the only students with the best grades will go to Auckland & Vic, while places out in the sticks like Massey and Lincoln will get the average undergrads.

    Academics might think this is good, because they’ll be working at the elite institutions, but it won’t work like that. There’ll be a points system, and it’ll mostly be cross-subject. So instead of (e.g.) Massey attracting smart life scientists, it’ll get the kids with Cs at undergrad level, and anyone staying there will have their career blighted.

  6. r0b 6

    Thanks for this post Sandra, and thanks to the TEU (of which I am a member) for the great work it does standing up for tertiary teaching and learning.

  7. Gosman 7

    What a surprise. Left wing academics upset at Government on being told they can’t get more taxpayer largesse.

    How about some of you go out and get a real job in the private sector?

    • Campbell Larsen 7.1

      Judging by your comments Gos you should have spent more time at school.

    • r0b 7.2

      Spoken with all your usual wisdom and insight Gosman.

      Tell me, what sort of “private sector” do you think there would be without an educated populace and workforce?  Fancy yourself as a peasant farmer do you? 

    • “How about some of you go out and get a real job in the private sector?”

      Well, that’s certainly “deep, meaningful, and insightful”… *sighs*

      By the way, Gosman, I note that you posted that on Thursday, 25 August, at 10.41am. Shouldn’t you have been at work at that time? And if you were, what does your employer say about you blogging during work hours??

      • Gosman 7.3.1

        I’m not blogging. I am commenting on a blog post. As for what my empoyer thinks. They are happy enough with my performance to have extended my contract for a year recently. In the real world people’s performance is reflected in whether you get pay rises and/or work extensions. Unlike say the academic world which seems to not worry too much about whether someone’s job is economically necessary and when pay rises are woirked out on some arcane formula seemingly unrelated to performance.

        • Bored 7.3.1.1

          I did the contract renewals and pay adjustments recently: you left out one variable that also has a big impact…market conditions. Got a lot of push back from people who expected pay rises based upon always getting them, and had to explain that they were replacable at a lower cost. Thats the nature of the private sector market. Hard but true.

          Which brings me to the public sector and academics: how is it that the public servants pay only goes up? If there is pain why should they be exempt from sharing collectively in that pain? Is it fair that some retain pay rates and employment whilst others get made redundant?

  8. infused 8

    It’s funny, most of the people on talk back dont seem to agree with you.

    • lprent 8.1

      You’re referring to talkback as a source of informed opinion? My opinion of your opinions just dropped below its already low levels. Talkback is for morons who are incapable of touching a keyboard and getting out of broadcast media….

  9. David 9

    It seems to me that there are many instances where academics are woefully unprepared to manage or teach. If developing these skills were given half of the emphasis of developing a narrow range of research skills then there probably wouldn’t be a need for managers etc. The clear assumption is normally if you are a competent researcher then you can teach (or manage). When I hear the comment ‘if you can teach (or manage) then you can research’ I will be convinced we are making progress.

    • r0b 9.1

      Times are changing.  There’s certainly a lot more emphasis on new staff members learning to teach than there was a couple of decades ago.

  10. I believe that the folks who deliver the management services to a properly constituted University must take advice from its existing academics, and gain their consent, before hiring or firing anyone, or before making any other change to any matter which may affect its academic “core business”. The current Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland apparently believes otherwise. At Senate, he has recently made it clear that he believes that our university’s charter, and the laws of our country, do not allow him to take advice from Senate on any matter affecting our university’s academic standing or operation — if this matter may impinge, in any way, on how our university behaves as an employer of its staff.

    I sincerely hope my university can find a way through this impasse over the role of its academic Senate.

    I cannot see how any educational institution can maintain high academic standards, if it is managed without the advice and consent of its academics on all academic matters, especially including those which have implications to the University as an employer.

Links to post

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Government receives interim report from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse
    The Government has received an interim report from the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions. The terms of reference for the Royal Commission required a progress report on the inquiry‘s work to date to be delivered to the Government by the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    11 hours ago
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs announces diplomatic appointments to Malaysia and Austria
    Foreign Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta has announced Pam Dunn as New Zealand’s next High Commissioner to Malaysia and Brian Hewson as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to Austria and UN Permanent Representative, Vienna. Malaysia “New Zealand and Malaysia enjoy a warm bilateral relationship. We have had diplomatic relations for more than 60 years, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    12 hours ago
  • Intention to appoint a Commission for Tauranga City Council
    Minister of Local Government, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, has confirmed the Tauranga City Council has been advised of her intention to appoint a Commission in response to significant governance problems among the Council’s elected representatives and the findings of an independent review. “I have been closely watching the conduct of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    13 hours ago
  • Pacific Health Scholarships 2021 about improving access to healthcare for Pacific communities
    Associate Minister of Health, Aupito William Sio is calling on any Pacific students studying health or disability-related courses to apply now for a Ministry of Health Pacific Health Scholarship. “These scholarships acknowledge the vital role Pacific people play in our health workforce. This was most visible through our Pacific workforce's ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    14 hours ago
  • NCEA Level 1 changes give students a broader foundation
    The Government is making changes to NCEA Level 1 to ensure it remains a strong, credible qualification that supports young people into employment and further education, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Last term, the Government initiated a wide-scale review of the National Certificates of Educational Achievement (NCEA), involving consultation ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Crown accounts reflect positive economic trend
    The Government’s books were again better than expected as the economy continued to recover post COVID lockdown, the Finance Minister Grant Robertson says. The Crown Accounts for the four months to the end of October were far more favourable than what was forecast in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Increase to supplier diversity through new procurement target for Maori Business
    Māori enterprises are in line for greater opportunities to do business with government agencies under an initiative to spread the benefits of the economic recovery.  The Ministers for Māori Development and Economic and Regional Development have announced a new target to encourage public service agencies to cast the net ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Climate emergency declaration will be matched with long-term action
    Today’s climate emergency declaration will be backed with ambitious plans to reduce emissions, the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw today. “Our Government has put New Zealand at the forefront of climate action over the last three years. Declaring a climate emergency and backing this with long-term action to reduce ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Celebrating the success of Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award winners
    28 young achievers who have been in the care of Oranga Tamariki or involved with the youth justice system have received Oranga Tamariki Prime Minister Awards in recognition of their success and potential, Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis announced today. At the awards ceremony in Parliament, Kelvin Davis congratulated the rangatahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025
    Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025 Immediate focus on phasing out largest and most active coal boilers Government agencies required to purchase electric vehicles and reduce the size of their car fleet Green standard required for public sector buildings The Government has launched a major new initiative to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Government fulfils election undertaking on new top tax rate
    The Government will today keep its election promise to put in place a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000. “This will only affect the top two per cent of earners. It is a balanced measure that is about sharing the load so everyone ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Sir Robert Martin re-elected to UN Committee
    New Zealand welcomes the news that Sir Robert Martin has been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, says Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni. “Sir Robert has been a lifetime advocate for persons with disabilities and his experience brings a ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New rules to protect Kiwis from unaffordable loans
    The Government is making sure all consumers who borrow money get the same protections, regardless of where they get their loans.   “Building on the work to crack down on loan sharks last year, we’re now making the rules clearer for all lenders to help protect borrowers from unaffordable loans” ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New visitor attraction to boost tourism
    The opening of the first major new tourism attraction since the global outbreak of COVID-19 closed borders to international travellers will provide a welcome boost to visitor numbers in our largest city, says Tourism Minister Stuart Nash. Mr Nash has this afternoon taken part in the official opening ceremony of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Govt moves on drug checking to keep young New Zealanders safer this summer
    The Government will pass time limited legislation to give legal certainty to drug checking services, so they can carry out their work to keep New Zealanders safer this summer at festivals without fear of prosecution, Health Minister Andrew Little says. Next year the Government will develop and consult on regulations ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Public Service Commissioner reappointed
    Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins announced today that Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes CNZM has been reappointed for three years. The Public Service Commissioner is appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. “Mr Hughes’ reappointment reflects the need for strong leadership and continuity to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Pōwhiri marks the start of a critical year for APEC
    New Zealand kicked off its APEC host year today, with a pōwhiri taking place on Wellington’s waterfront with local iwi Te Atiawa, and a number of Government ministers welcoming representatives from the other 20 APEC economies. “APEC is a hugely important international event, and New Zealand is hosting amidst the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Speech at APEC 21 Opening Pōwhiri
    9am, Tuesday 1 DecemberTe Whare Waka o Pōneke, Wellington Central He Mihi Kei aku rangatira no ngātapito e whā o te ao huri noa, tātou e huihui mai nei. Tēnā rā kōutou katoa. He tangiapakura ki ngā tini aituā kei waenganui i a tātou, ka tangi tonu te ngākau ki ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Government extends business debt relief to October 2021
    To assist with the ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19, rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold have been extended by 10 months. “New Zealand’s economy is recovering better than we expected, but the impacts of the pandemic are far-reaching and some businesses need continued support to keep ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Bill introduced to support workers with 10 days sick leave
    The Government is delivering on a key commitment by introducing a Bill to Parliament to expand sick leave entitlements from five days to ten days a year, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood announced today. “COVID-19 has shown how important it is to stay at home when people are ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Progress on pay equity for DHB staff
    Today’s initial agreement between DHBs and the PSA on pay equity for clerical and administration staff is an important step toward better, fairer pay for this crucial and largely female workforce, Health Minister Andrew Little says. If ratified, the agreement between the Public Service Association and the country’s 20 District ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Iconic Milford Track officially reopens
    One of New Zealand’s premier hikes and a cornerstone of the Te Anau community, the Milford Track has officially reopened, “From today, hikers booked on the popular Great Walk will be able to complete the walk end-to-end for the first time since early February,” Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan says. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Support for farmers beefed up ahead of La Niña
    Further funding for feed support services and new animal welfare coordinators will help farmers who continue to feel the effects of an extended drought, says Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor. “In March this year, I classified the drought in the North Island, parts of the South Island and the Chathams ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Next steps for Christchurch Hospital campus redevelopment
    Canterbury DHB will be better placed to respond to future demand for services and continue to deliver high quality care, with the next stage of the campus redevelopment programme confirmed, Health Minister Andrew Little says. The Government has approved $154 million in funding for the construction of a third tower ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Five Power Defence Arrangements Defence Ministers’ Joint Statement
    The Defence Ministers from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and United Kingdom reaffirmed their nations’ continued commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), and commended the achievements over the past 49 years as the FPDA moves towards its 50th Anniversary in 2021.  The Ministers recognised the FPDA’s significant role ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding protects health of Hawke’s Bay waterways
    A joint Government and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council project will invest $4.2 million to protect local waterways, enhance biodiversity and employ local people, Environment Minister David Parker announced today.   Over two years, the Hāpara Takatū Jobs for Nature project will fence 195km of private land to exclude stock from vulnerable ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Year border exception for seasonal workers in the horticulture and wine industries
    2000 additional RSE workers to enter New Zealand early next year employers must pay these workers at least $22.10 an hour employers will cover costs of managed isolation for the RSE workers RSE workers will be paid the equivalent of 30 hours work a week while in isolation From January ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government increases support for New Zealanders to work in seasonal jobs
    The Government is offering further financial support for unemployed New Zealanders to take on seasonal work. These new incentives include: Up to $200 per week for accommodation costs $1000 incentive payment for workers who complete jobs of six weeks or longer increasing wet weather payments when people can’t work to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government receives Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mos...
    Minister for Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti has today received the Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques, and will table it in Parliament on Tuesday December 8. “I know this will have been a challenging process for whānau, survivors and witnesses of the terrorist attack ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Zealand Government to declare a climate emergency
    The Government will declare a climate emergency next week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today.                                       “We are in the midst of a climate crisis that will impact on nearly every ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Call for urgent action on Pacific conservation
    A declaration on the urgency of the global biodiversity crisis and the need for immediate, transformative action in the Pacific was agreed at a pan-Pacific conference today. The 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas is taking place this week across the Pacific.  Minister of Conservation Kiritapu ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Speech from the throne
    E aku hoa i te ara o te whai, Kia kotahi tā tātou takahi i te kō, ko tōku whiwhi kei tō koutou tautoko mai. Ko tāku ki a koutou, hei whakapiki manawa mōku. He horomata rangatira te mahi, e rite ai te whiwhinga a te ringatuku, me te ringakape ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Keynote address to Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand conference
    Speech to the CAANZ conference - November 19, 2020 Thank you, Greg, (Greg Haddon, MC) for the welcome. I’d like to acknowledge John Cuthbertson from CAANZ, the Commissioner of Inland Revenue Naomi Ferguson, former fellow MP and former Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, other guest speakers and CAANZ members. I ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Expert independent advisory group appointed to strengthen the future of Māori broadcasting
    A panel of seven experts are adding their support to help shape the future of Māori broadcasting, Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has announced today. “Today I will meet with some of the most experienced Māori broadcasters, commentators and practitioners in the field. They have practical insights on the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government to review housing settings
    New Zealand’s stronger-than-expected economic performance has flowed through to housing demand, so the Government will review housing settings to improve access to the market, the Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced today. “Our focus is on improving access to the housing market for first home buyers and ensuring house price growth ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Crown accounts reflect Govt’s careful economic management
    The better-than-expected Crown accounts released today show the Government’s careful management of the COVID-19 health crisis was the right approach to support the economy. As expected, the Crown accounts for the year to June 2020 show the operating balance before gains and losses, or OBEGAL, was in deficit. However that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community launch marks next step in addressing racism in education
    The launch of Te Hurihanganui in Porirua today is another important milestone in the work needed to address racism in the education system and improve outcomes for Māori learners and their whānau, Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis says. Budget 2019 included $42 million over three years to put Te Hurihanganui ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Government to consider recommendations on DNA use in criminal investigations
    The Minister of Justice has received the Law Commission’s recommending changes to the law governing the way DNA is used in criminal investigations. The report, called The Use of DNA in Criminal Investigations – Te Whahamahi I te Ira Tangata I ngā Mātai Taihara, recommends new legislation to address how ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Speech to Wakatū Nelson regional hui on trade
    First, I want to express my thanks to Te Taumata for this hui and for all the fantastic work you are doing for Māori in the trade space. In the short time that you’ve been operating you’ve already contributed an enormous amount to the conversation, and developed impressive networks.  I ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Speech to Primary Industries Summit
    Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the significant contribution the food and fibres sector makes to New Zealand and how this Government is supporting that effort. I’d like to start by acknowledging our co-Chairs, Terry Copeland and Mavis Mullins, my colleague, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago