What does the Tertiary Education Amendment Bill have in store?

October 2016

 

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The proposed Education (Tertiary Education and other Matters) Amendment Bill is looking to make things fairer for private training establishments (PTEs). 

Tertiary amedment billThe proposed Education (Tertiary Education and other Matters) Amendment Bill is largely focused on increasing the flexibility of funding; strengthening monitoring and compliance, and creating equitable treatment of tertiary education providers. 

The Bill is also an opportunity to look at some minor matters that need updating, says Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce.

The Government is seeking feedback from stakeholders on whether the draft legislation is clear and easily understood, whether there are likely to be implementation issues, and the potential impact of these proposals on tertiary education organisations and students.  

“The draft legislation proposes to adjust the Education Act 1989 to enable the plan-based funding system to operate as parliament originally intended,” says Joyce. “The proposals would allow for more flexibility in the funding framework and improve accountability in return.”

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA) is interested to see how the proposed changes to investment plans are directed.

“If it gives flexibility that benefits students then we applaud this; however, if it’s for the Minister to choose the focus of tertiary institutions over the wishes of students, local communities and other stakeholders then this is a step too far,” says NZUSA President Linsey Higgins. 

Higgins is also pleased to see the promotion of student involvement in decision-making through enhanced reporting requirements for the Compulsory Student Services Fee (CSSF) in the Bill although, she says, the NZUSA would prefer to see structures that support joint-decision making with students as “required” and not merely “recommended”.

Another change in the Bill is the requirement that private training establishments (PTEs) are funded on the same basis as public tertiary institutions for directly comparable programmes or activities.

“This will ensure that tertiary education providers are treated equitably, regardless of whether they’re public or private,” says Joyce.

Higgins says the NZUSA takes no umbrage with the proposed name change of private training establishments to ‘independent training establishments’, per se, since PTEs range from small not-for profit community groups to multi-million-dollar, profit-generating machines.

“Yet we would rather we called a spade a spade,” she says. “The lumping all of them into a differently named homogeneous group obscures the real function of some of
these institutions, which as we have seen in recent times put profits far above their educational focus.”

Higgins says that in principle the NZUSA supports the use of the Export Education Levy to cover students left short by failing PTEs; however, using this fund to do so would decrease the amount available for promoting international students to study at decent providers in New Zealand.

“We would rather the Government lifts its game in getting rid of the bad eggs so the rest of the sector doesn’t have to pay for their poor performance,” she says.

Another change in the proposed legislation will allow wānanga to apply for ministerial consent to describe themselves using the terms university, college of education, polytechnic or institute of technology.

“This change would potentially allow wānanga to be able to promote themselves more easily to the international education market, and give them the same right to seek consent to use these terms that private training establishments have under the Act,” says Joyce.

Consultation on the proposed Bill closes on 10 October 2016. The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) is surprised the Minister is pushing ahead with the Bill before he receives the final report from the Productivity Commission on tertiary education in February next year.

“Why would he invest so much energy, time and public money in this report and then change the education system before the report comes out?” questions TEU President Sandra Grey.


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