Minister Disingenuous With University Council Claims

18 March 2014

Press Release: New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations is calling for greater scrutiny of Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce’s claims about University Governance.

The Education Amendment Bill (No.2) would reduce the size of the governing board of the institutions, called the Council, from the current twelve to twenty members to between eight and twelve. It removes all nominated stakeholder representation, apart from those appointed by the Minister himself – which it is proposed to increase as a proportion of the total.

“The Māori Party voted for the Bill to proceed to Select Committee having extracted a requirement that each Council must have a member who is Māori”, says Daniel Haines, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations.

“When the Minister introduced the requirement for a Māori member with the Bill, he said it was ‘insignificant’, as ‘seven of the eight have a member who is Māori already’.

“He neglected to inform the House that in 2013 four of the nine Council members who were Māori were students – and that he had appointed just one Māori out of his thirty appointments.

“Further, the Minister has appointed no Pasifika, despite that the institutions are making only very slow progress in Māori and Pasifika achievement. Ignoring his own stated concerns about institutions focussing more on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM” subjects), he has only appointed one person with such a background.

“Our analysis of existing Council representation reveals that having a preponderance of Ministerial appointments is extremely dangerous. Eighty-six percent of his appointments have been CEOs, company directors, accountants or commercial lawyers, none have had a background in higher education.

“Those co-opted by the Councils themselves, which the Minister’s Bill proposes to be the way that all the members of the Council who are not Ministerial appointments would get there, follow a similar pattern, being overwhelmingly from corporate governance backgrounds.

"Research from Australia, cited by Universities New Zealand in their submission during the consultation phase, identified that a principal problem in higher education governance is those people from corporate governance backgrounds have insufficient knowledge of the special characteristics of universities”, says Haines. 

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