Alarming Comments by Chair of Tertiary Education Commission

20 February 2014

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) President Sonya Clark said she was, “alarmed and concerned”, at the commercial agenda being proposed for universities by the Tertiary Education Commission Chairperson John Spencer.

Clark cautioned against moves to ‘run [universities] like businesses’ saying there was a real risk academic freedom for staff and students would be threatened.

“A quality public education system underpins a flourishing democratic society. Through investing in education we develop the skills needed for the wellbeing of our society”, says Clark.

“The Tertiary Education Commission is out of touch. Universities are important learning communities with a duty to be the critic and conscience of society. Higher education needs to be cherished, not commoditised under a profit-driven model.”

“Tertiary Education is a public good. Whilst education has private benefits, the greatest good is the cultural and economic heritage of New Zealand. The Commission needs to be reminded of this.”

“Subjects such as English Literature contribute immensely to our understanding of society. Will English Literature be under threat if it can’t be tied to specific financial outcomes?”

Clark said that extensive work is done by universities to craft a vision that encompasses a broad range of social and economic goals, while being held to often burdening measures placed on them by the Government.

“Spencer’s claim that universities lack a clear vision which is adequately measured against performance indicators shows he is remarkably ill-informed not only about purpose, but also about what is actually going on.”

Students will be keeping a close eye on Spencer’s plan in this area, she concluded.

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