Victoria University of Wellington released:
The University has received independent legal advice on the Minister of Education’s decision to decline the University Council’s recommendation to change the name of the University to University of Wellington. The advice was provided by two senior public law practitioners who are external to the University and independent of one another.
The University considers that there is a very high likelihood the Minister’s decision has not been lawfully made.
The Minister has given himself a position closely supervising the decisions of the University Council, a role which has no basis in the statutory scheme. This approach undermines the institutional autonomy that Parliament intended for universities. The Minister has then applied his own, previously published criteria, rather than those in the Education Act. He has required an enhanced form of “consultation” from the Council, which has no basis in statute and is far beyond what the law requires. In addition, the Minister has misunderstood the “national interest” and made a decision on this ground that is not supported by the law and is contrary to his officials’ advice.
The Council will be raving bonkers if they seriously try to judicially review the decision by Chris Hipkins. Their decision is opposed by a majority of all their stakeholders – students, staff and graduates. The City Council is opposed. The local MPs all think it is nuts. The Minister had clear advice from the Ministry that he could decline due to lack of proper consultation.
Even if a court found some technical flaw, at best the Minister just has to reconsider, and I’m sure the decision will be the same.
The other option open to the Minister is to start sacking or not reappointing Council members if they vote to proceed with a judicial review.