Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce and Education Minister Hekia Parata have welcomed the first reading of the Education Amendment Bill in Parliament, which will make a number of legislative changes to the education profession.
Joyce says changes are needed to ensure tertiary education institutions remain effective, capable and well positioned to respond to the changing needs of the New Zealand economy and society.
“New Zealand needs to continue to improve its education system in order to sustain global competitiveness and grow the skills we will need in the future. Changes to the makeup of governance will provide New Zealand’s universities and wānanga with the ability to appoint capable and flexible councils,” he says.
However, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) is unhappy with the proposed changes, saying they’ll result in a reduction in the size of the Council from the current 12 to 20 members to between eight and 12. The Minister’s appointees, which currently constitute 20% of the Councils, will increase to at least a third and as much as 40% of the total.
“Having such a large proportion of Ministerial appointees is dangerous to the values that underpin our institutions of higher education, such as a commitment to academic freedom and to being a critic and conscience of society,” says NZUSA president, Daniel Haines. “They also risk making the universities subservient to the whims of the Minister, rather than engaging in the nimble, responsive and effective performance that he claims to seek.”
Key features of the Bill include:
- Establishment of a new legal framework for a revised Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students
- Establishment of an independent contract disputes resolution scheme for international students and their education providers.
- Establishment of a new professional body, the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (EDUCANZ), which replaces the existing New Zealand Teachers Council.
The Bill was referred to the Education and Science Select Committee for public submissions and is due to be reported back to Parliament in July.