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Submitters Oppose Bill Aiming To Trim Polytechnic Boards

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 14 NZPA - Tertiary education representatives have spoken out against a government bill aiming to make cuts and structural changes to polytechnic boards .

The Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Bill, introduced into Parliament in August, will make boards smaller, change appointment procedures and give the Tertiary Education Commission increased powers of intervention. Councils can currently have up to 20 members but the bill will restrict that to eight, including four appointed by the minister and only one by the community .

Education Minister Anne Tolley said it would also allow the Crown to respond "more effectively" where polytechnics were at financial or educational risk.

Parliament's education and science select committee today heard submissions from tertiary education providers, unions and individuals.

The Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand (NZ ITP), which represents 14 institutes of technology and polytechnics, said it recognised the intent to improve governance and financial performance, but the bill needed strengthening.

It questioned why the bill focused only on polytechnics and did not include all tertiary education institutions, and was not comfortable with the planned board structure and appointment process.

NZ ITP said it wanted more board members nominated by the communities in question -- three or four, rather than only one.

Along with other submitters, it was concerned about an intent to have members sit on multiple polytechnic boards, and submitted that no more than two members should be able to serve on a second board.

Taken to the extreme, members serving on more than two could eventually lead to a single group governing multiple polytechnic boards, said NZ ITP chairman James Buwalda.

He said the bill's focus on polytechnics implied a prejudice that such institutes were less competent than other providers, and considere d it should apply to all tertiary institutions.

Universal College of Learning (UCOL) Duncan Milne also supported the bill's intent, but said it would lead to poorer rather than better governance if passed in its current form.

"This bill dilutes any potential difference any council members can make," he said.

Mr Milne said UCOL was also against there being only one community appointed member, saying th at needed to be expanded to three, and that institutions risked losing their autonomy if members were allowed to sit on multiple boards.

He also said it was not acceptable that the minister could remove a board chair or deputy, apparently without thorough consultation or just cause.

Former NZ ITP executive director Jim Doyle said leadership quality -- the board chair/chief executive relationship in particular -- was vital.

The group size was not a critical factor, he said, and any new systems needed to ensure the best possible people were put in the chair position.

It was also important to ensure ministerial appointments were transparent and done at arm's length so as to avoid accusations of political interference.

Wairarapa REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) submitted that eight board representatives was too few for provincial areas.

There was a wider range of interests requiring representation than a board of eight allowed for, considering half would be made by central government.

Wairarapa REAP said community representation needed to increase to three and board make-ups should reflect the needs and directions of individual providers.

It also pressed for designated Maori representation.

NZPA PAR co kn

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