Tertiary education staff and students engaged energetically in the government’s education conversation and their hopes and dreams are imprinted in the Draft Tertiary Education Strategy released today.

That’s the message of the Tertiary Education Union | Te Hautū Kahurangi.

“The vision set out in the draft strategy is a vast improvement on the previous strategy,’ says TEU National President, Michael Gilchrist. “The first objective – to put learners and their communities at the centre of the education system, from early childhood through to tertiary education – is exactly the shift we need from a narrow focus on serving the needs of the economy and the labour market.”

Gilchrist states that staff in the sector have for a decade wanted to see the humanity returned to education and have wanted to be part of a quality tertiary education system that is accessible to all.

“We have been heartbroken by funding cuts that resulted in government and institutional management seeing student support services and supporting staff as nice-to-haves. For example, we know of members who wanted help for a suicidal student who couldn’t find the support needed for that student because the counselor and nurse hours on campus had been cut down or stripped away entirely.”

The draft Tertiary Education Strategy gives us hope that this government sees education as being about whole people with needs for both academic and pastoral support.

“That hope will fade fast unless, as  a matter of urgency, the government moves to transform our funding model to reflect the laudable priorities in the draft Tertiary Education Strategy. Research into the State of the Sector shows that the goodwill of staff, their ability to do more and more with less, has almost run out.”

Gilchrist says there needs to be additional investment in the tertiary education system and changing the way that investment is directed. If the government is serious about this vision of  quality public education that is genuinely accessible to all New Zealanders then they must loosen the purse strings – and they must seek broader outcomes with their funding - if the benefits of this draft strategy are to be realised.

TEU also welcomes the emphasis in the draft strategy on:

• putting learners and learning as the centre of the system;

• lifelong education and ongoing learning while working;

• the emphasis on te reo and tikanga Māori;

• including the arts and humanities in the tertiary education strategy as a necessity not nice-to-haves;

• developing clear and supported pathways through the system that recognise diverse talents and enhance student choices;

• investing in tertiary staff and recognising teaching skills and training;

• enhancing the ability of research to focus on well-being in New Zealand; and,

• an holistic view of the education system from early childhood through to tertiary level

For further comment:

National President, Michael Gilchrist, 027 899 4256

Communications and Campaigns Officer, Sandra Grey, 021 844 176