Changes to University Councils – the Good, and the Bad

By Michael Edmonds 06/10/2013

Steven Joyce’s plans to change the constitution of University Councils has provoked some reaction from the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) but otherwise there does not seem to have been much of a reaction from the overall university academic community.

Mr Joyce has claimed that the main reason for these changes is to reduce the size of councils, something that in itself is not a bad thing. I’ve found that when committees exceed more than about 12 members they become cumbersome, discussions drag on for longer, and some members can get away with contributing anything. Many university councils are getting close to 20 members.

However, the dangerous (in my opinion) part of this new approach is that the changes make it possible to eliminate staff and student members from the council. This will remove valuable voices from the table, capable of providing the view from the “shop floor” of the education process. And universities only need to look as far as their local polytechnics to see how their councils might look in the future, as the government pushed this change on the polytechnic sector several years ago. Now most polytechnic councils are made up of eight members, half of whom are government appointees, while the remaining four are appointed by the council. Currently most have no staff or student representation.

Examples of councils can be found as follows:




University of Auckland

Massey University

University of Canterbury

The list of Council members for most tertiary institutions is fairly easy to find via Google – take a look at the membership of your institutions. If you are at a university, which eight members do you think would remain? The staff and student representatives?

0 Responses to “Changes to University Councils – the Good, and the Bad”

  • Personally I think it’s essential that the staff & student voices remain. The Council needs to hear the voices of its core consumers & of those who are tasked with actually delivering on the statutory requirements of any university: teaching, research, & the role of critic & conscience of society.

  • There is reaction in the tea-room Michael! This is another example of a government with an ideological agenda (OK… they probably all have that), trying to manipulate the education sector as if it is comprised of business units with only an economic end-goal. It misses the point of a university (& their distinction from polytechnics). Interestingly, the Minister’s proposal would require legislative change – where do the other political parties stand?
    Wrt removing staff and student voices – appalling.

  • John, I hope the reaction moves beyond the tea-room otherwise I suspect the government may get their way – a council without staff or student voices and comprised of business people and accountants.
    Appalling would be an understatement.