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  • Henry Broadbent

Government Launches University Advisory Group, Doesn’t Consult Students


On March 27, Tertiary Education and Skills Minister Penny Simmonds announced the creation of a new University Advisory Group, to “consider the effectiveness of the current university system”. It’s worth briefly lingering on the criteria for ‘effectiveness’ against which the tertiary sector will be pitted. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it skews heavily economic. Tertiary education, Simmons says, “is a key contributor to New Zealand’s economic performance.”

Cold hard cash is not the sole concern of the Group—announcements surrounding it do gesture toward equity in education, and to social outcomes. However, arts and humanities stand on shaky ground, students face mounting challenges, and privatisation continues to encroach. Doubling down on economic productivity as a key yardstick in such an environment seems at best myopic; at worst potentially damaging to people whose concerns aren’t solely with the GDP of the state. 

This writer is not the only person to feel that ensuring higher education is “well-placed to deliver maximum [economic] benefit for the country” might leave student concerns at the wayside. This worry was heavily compounded by an initial and complete absence of student voices from the Group.

Happily, we can report a victory on that front: last week the presidents of students’ associations from across Aotearoa wrote an open letter to Minister Simmonds, stressing the critical need for student involvement. In response the Chair has agreed to establish a reference group of representatives from student associations across the university sector, and meet with them regularly. We will endeavour to follow and analyse the findings of the Group as the year continues.


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