27 July 2017
Minister’s commitment to student-centred tertiary education system needs teeth
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed the Government’s commitment to a student-centred
tertiary education system, but warns the outlined work programme will not give effect to this goal.
The commitment comes out of the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission report on new models of tertiary
education, released yesterday. In the response, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith
outlined a commitment to creating a student-centred system in which informed and engaged students can access the
education opportunities best suited to them.
‘While efforts to provide better information, mobility and careers education are welcome, this only goes part-way in
empowering students to optimise their tertiary experience. The other part is engaging and involving students as partners
and co-producers in their own learning experience, the Minister’s plan is silent in these areas,’ says National
President Jonathan Gee.
‘New Zealand should be more ambitious in pursuing international best practice for students, specifically through
investing in capacity building to enhance student voice.’
International best practice in the sector acknowledges the importance of student voice in governance and
decision-making, and in assuring quality. Some of this work has already started, for example with NZUSA’s Memorandum of
Understanding with the Academic Quality Agency which supports students as auditors in assessing university academic
On other aspects of the Government’s response to the Commission’s report, NZUSA is pleased that the Minister has
rejected recommendations around interest on student loans and variable subsidies to tuition fees for courses of ‘high
private return’. We are also pleased that he is willing to explore developing a framework for tertiary teaching.
However, Gee was cautious at suggestions to continue to consider changes to fee regulation and to review the requirement
for research-led teaching in degree-level study.
‘Barrier-free, affordable and equitable access to tertiary education needs to be front and centre of any changes to the
system. We would expect active engagement and consultation with students on any possible changes to tuition fees or the
way we are taught,’ Gee says.
In referring to the Minister’s commitment that tertiary education should meet the needs of industry and employers, NZUSA
noted that students’ needs also need to be prioritised.
‘The Minister himself referred to the importance of tertiary education in deepening our understanding of ourselves, our
history, the world and finding solutions to our many challenges. Skills that match with the needs of industry are
essential, but we must equally prioritise tertiary education’s role as a powerful social lever that transforms the lives
of individuals and their communities.’
‘We look forward to working with Government to ensure that tertiary education is working best for students.’
NZUSA is the national voice of students in tertiary education. The organisation is governed by students' associations
from universities and polytechnics around the country.
We stand for opportunity, for all.
NZUSA is the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations, the national body that represents New Zealand's students'
associations and the interests of New Zealand's 400,000 students at universities, polytechnics and in trades training.
We conduct original research, advocate to Government and through the media, and support New Zealand's students'
associations to be more effective on behalf of their members. We advocate alongside Te Mana Akonga – The National Māori
Students' Association, and Tertiary Women New Zealand – The NZUSA Women's Caucus.
Since 1929, we've believed in a society rich in opportunity, where anyone from anywhere can become any thing. We
support accessible, affordable quality public tertiary education.