National is attacking democratic principles and institutions on many fronts, from the continued abuse of urgency and parliamentary process, to the privatisation of local government functions in the new Auckland “Supercity”, to sacking democratically elected boards and cancelling elections in Canterbury, to the privatisation by stealth of our National Parks. Less commented on, but no less significant, is National’s attack on democratic principles in tertiary education.
Before the election National promised that they would:
Ensure that institutions have greater autonomy to provide tertiary education that responds to the needs and growth aspirations of the New Zealand economy, and their own communities.
What does “greater autonomy” look like National style?
Govt moves to take control of polytechs
The Government is set to step in and appoint 80 board members across 20 polytechs to oversee how the institutions are run. It is being seen as a takeover that is unprecedented in the tertiary sector. …
New boards are about to be appointed, with four members appointed by the polytech and four hand-picked by the minister [includes the chair and deputy]. Together they’ll be responsible for financial decisions, mergers and broad policy guidelines. “For a political party that criticises big government, it is somewhat ironic, because this is government control effectively,” says Tom Ryan of the Tertiary Education Union.
This is yet another example of National trampling local governance to impose their control by fiat (with boards well stocked with old mates). Will it stop with Polytechnics? Yeah right. The rhetoric against university governance is already ramping up:
Prime minister John Key in his opening speech of the year told Parliament that there are ‘increasingly urgent problems’ in tertiary education. … Mr Key said universities suffered from an inflexible and bureaucratic funding and policy framework, and that many sub-degree level programmes have drop-out rates he considers to be too high.
Heads up universities – you’re next…