The Government passed its widely-panned Education Amendment Bill in a rush through Parliament last night. The bill shrinks New Zealand’s university councils down to a maximum of 12 and removes the requirement for student and staff representatives on councils.
The new law makes New Zealand’s university councils amongst the smallest in the world, with none of the world’s top universities having councils so unrepresentative and dominated by government appointees.
The move now leaves it up to each of the eight universities to determine how they allocate their few seats by rewritting their constitutions ahead of the Minister’s deadline of 2016. That gives national student president Rory McCourt hope that all universities will use this opportunity to choose to keep students and staff at the top table.
The new law says that the Minister appoints 3 -4 members out of a Council of 8 – 12. I predict every Council will go for 12 members, so Government appointees will be 4/12 – one third.
I do agree with NZUSA that all universities should ensure that at least one of the Council members is a student representative. Student fees fund around 25% of the university and they have a strong interest in how the university is governed, its costs, its quality etc.
I’m more equivocal on staff representation. Staff are a vital component of a university, but they do face a conflict of interest when they are on the governing body. I don’t think it would be sensible to have no staff representation, but you don’t want an excessive number because then the Council will be dominated by its own staff.