Government cuts student voice - Now it's up to University Councils

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11 February 2015

Media Release from the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations

The Government passed its widely-panned Education Amendment Bill in a rush through Parliament last night. The bill shrinks New Zealand’s university councils down to a maximum of 12 and removes the requirement for student and staff representatives on councils.

The new law makes New Zealand’s university councils amongst the smallest in the world, with none of the world’s top universities having councils so unrepresentative and dominated by government appointees.

The move now leaves it up to each of the eight universities to determine how they allocate their few seats by rewritting their constitutions ahead of the Minister’s deadline of 2016. That gives national student president Rory McCourt hope that all universities will use this opportunity to choose to keep students and staff at the top table.

“We know from the evidence that having people from the coalface, people who know what it’s like to teach or be a student, can mean a world of difference in the performance of governing boards.” says McCourt.

“Without the real-world experience of students and staff an institution risks heading down a path blind to the realities of the decision they make, or could make.”

“Universities have for centuries been collegial communities where every voice was valued, where challenges to authority were expected and where conscience was valued alongside expertise. Surely no one wants to lose what makes universities universities?”

“We’ll be working with partners to show university councils the value of having students and staff involved in strategic decision-making. We think at least one third of a council should be students and staff; democratically elected, independent of university management or Ministerial interference, and accountable to their peers.

“It makes sense that at least one of the student representatives is the students’ association president. Associations are key to providing student representatives who are in touch and accountable to the student body. They also provide the infrastructure required to support a councillor in doing their job well.”

“Now it’s in the hands of each university council. We are confident over next year they’ll each make the right decision to secure student and staff voices through at least one third of their top table.” says McCourt.

The voice of New Zealand's 400,000 students.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations exists to advance the political, social and economic interests of tertiary students whatever they study and wherever they live. NZUSA is a membership body of local students' associatons. We believe in opportunity for all.

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