The Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament, amid some concerns from the sector.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith says the Bill will help the tertiary education system run more efficiently, ensure quality, and provide additional student protection.
“The Bill proposes a more balanced and flexible funding approach to ensure that providers can focus on delivering better outcomes for students, while still retaining appropriate accountability and monitoring mechanisms.
“It strengthens the monitoring of tertiary education organisations in response to recent investigations, for example by requiring providers to maintain records of their use of public money, and enhancing the TEC’s ability to monitor activities such as overseas education provision not funded by the Government.
“It will also provide for a level playing field between providers, whether they be publicly or privately owned, including requiring funding to be provided at the same rate for the same provision. This better reflects current practice and is the fair thing to do,” says Mr Goldsmith.
In addition, the Bill makes a number of changes around student protection, including:
- Extending the Export Education Levy to cover both private and partnership schools;
- Enable schools to manage international student misconduct outside of school hours, to better protect students’ health, safety, and wellbeing;
- Holding providers to account for falsely awarding credits, by allowing NZQA to pursue action against offending providers.
However, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says the Government is being reckless trying to pass a new tertiary education law without first evaluating what impact its reforms have had on teaching and learning. The TEU recently published a ‘stress dossier’ of more than 500 anonymous stories that include incidents where staff have been put under pressure to change students’ marks and alter assessments. Copies of the dossier were presented to the tertiary education spokespeople for Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First, as well as staff in the Minister’s office, ahead of the first reading.
“The very least the public should expect from National is a thorough review of the tertiary education reforms it has introduced before they go ahead and change the law to entrench an approach this dossier suggests has failed,” Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said.
The union is concerned that the new legislation will see funding being stripped away from public education and handed to private businesses.
“We all need to get around the table – staff, students, policymakers and institutions – to have an honest discussion about what tertiary education means for New Zealand and whether the current approach is working,” Grey said.
The Bill will now be considered by the Education and Science Select Committee.
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