Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce yesterday announced
plans to cut the maximum size of university and wananga
governing councils from 20 members to 12.
Mr Joyce said the changes would strengthen university and
wananga governance and help New Zealand universities remain
But the changes immediately came under fire from University
of Otago student and staff representatives, who said the
moves could reduce staff and student input at university
council and undermine academic freedom.
Otago University chancellor John Ward was overseas yesterday,
and no other comment was available from the university.
The Ministry of Education is co-ordinating consultation over
the proposed changes and public submissions close on November
It was proposed to cut university and wananga councils from a
range of 12 to 20 members to eight to 12 members, and make
council membership requirements ''more flexible'' by removing
specific representative requirements, Mr Joyce said.
Councils could also retain representative positions for
different stakeholder groups if they wished.
New Zealand universities had been ''performing very well in a
world context'', but faced several ''critical challenges,
such as greater competitive pressure resulting from massive
investment in the university sector across the developing
world, and the emergence of online course provision'', he
Smaller and ''more flexible'' councils would help New Zealand
universities to be ''nimbler, more adaptable, and better
organised'' than their overseas counterparts, he said.
Otago University Students' Association president Francisco
Hernandez said the Government was ''attacking student
representation'' on university councils.
And the Government had failed to ''show any evidence of
problems'' caused by the current university governance
There are four ministerial appointees on the 17-strong Otago
Mr Hernandez said student input could be reduced if the
council was reduced in size, and ministerial appointees would
have a much stronger influence in a smaller council, putting
academic freedom at risk.
Tertiary Education Union (TEU) Otago University branch
co-president Teresa La Rooy said the proposed changes would
reduce staff input and the diversity of views on the