Lawmakers hear appeal against tertiary education law

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Tertiary Education Union

Wellington, June 29, 2017

A committee of MPs has started detailed scrutiny of a proposed law change that could see vast sums of public money being transferred away from public tertiary institutions to private providers.

The law change would give private tertiary companies, who are more concerned with profit than providing quality education, equal funding to universities, polytechnics and wnanga.

The Education and Science Select Committee is tasked with examining these proposals in detail and making recommendations for amendment.

Unfair change before election

Hearings started on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 after more than 2000 public submissions called on MPs to reject what is widely seen as a rushed attempt by National to change the law before the election.

Sandra Grey, National President of the TEU, said that the number of submissions the Committee had received showed there was huge support for keeping tertiary education public and local.

it is a lot more attention than most of the legislation passing through Parliament attracts, and a clear signal to our MPs that this Bill matters to people who care about our education system, she said.

Committee Chair Jian Yang, a National list MP based in Auckland and a former lecturer at the University of Auckland, opened the hearings by inviting by a number of staff working in the sector to give evidence.

Strong defence

Tina Smith, a Senior Lecturer in Nursing at the Universal College of Learning, Bronwyn Wood, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Victoria University, and Miriam Meyerhoff, Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University, gave passionate defences of the public tertiary education system, before MPs questioned representatives of Universities New Zealand.

As part of his evidence, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Chair of Universities New Zealand, warned MPs about the risks of allowing polytechnics to use the term university. It was bizarre considering this is not a change the legislation even allows.

He also got into trouble when suggesting wnanga should not be allowed to use the term university, even though, as Labour MP Adrian Rurawhe pointed out, most universities, including McCutcheons University of Auckland, use the term wnanga themselves.

Vice Chancellors move

McCutcheon later moved to slightly safer ground, highlighting the importance of consulting Mori over universities use of the word wnanga.

Normally, Select Committees have six months to report on any new legislation, but with the election approaching there is real concern that the process will be curtailed so it can be passed before voters go to the polls.

The TEU will be working to ensure the Committee allows sufficient time to consider the concerns more than 2,000 people have raised as part of a full, open and informed debate on the risks posed by this legislation.

Hearings are expected to continue until at least the end of July.


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