This week the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) moved out of the Education and Science Select Committee without amendments to its dangerous reforms to reduce the size of universities and wānanga councils. If the Bill passes guaranteed student and staff positions on the governance bodies will be removed and a dangerous level of direct government control will be introduced.
“Of the 1,568 individual submissions and 298 oral submissions only one supported these widely condemned reforms. NZUSA believes that these changes are wrong headed and unnecessary. The changes are universally opposed by the sector not least because the proposed changes have no evidence to support them. This seems to be another political gimmick in the lead up to the General Election but will have wide-ranging and adverse consequences”, says Daniel Haines, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).
“The changes will be officially reported back to the House next Tuesday (22 July) and the Third Reading of the Bill is scheduled for after the General Election. This makes the election even more crucial for the future of tertiary education in New Zealand. A majority of parties represented in the current Parliament including the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Māori Party, the Mana Movement, United Future, and New Zealand First - and the Internet Party which looks likely to join them after the election, have all told us they will all oppose these radical reforms to university and wānanga governance.
“Despite this, it seems unlikely that without a change of Government that the Bill will be amended before passing sometime next year. Students call on the Government to heed the student voice and reject these extreme changes. If dominated by Ministerial appointees the values that underpin our institutions of higher education, such as being responsive to students, having a commitment to academic freedom and to fulfilling their role as a critic and conscience of society will be undermined.
“Student leaders around the country will be mobilising students to vote at the ballot booths, and encouraging them to have this issue at the forefront of their minds when they do so.