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Student leaders and tertiary staff are aghast they may no longer be guaranteed places on polytechnic councils.
In August, Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley announced plans to fast-track legislation to reduce the number of places on councils to eight.
At present, councils can be as big as 20.
On Friday, in a surprise move, the education and science select committee considering the National Polytechnics' Amendment Bill recommended the four ministerial appointments on the new councils be given the power to appoint four other people, not stating who those people should be.
If passed into law, there might be no places on council for student, staff, iwi, union and industry representatives.
Institution chief executives would also not be guaranteed a place.
Otago Polytechnic Students Association (OPSA) acting president Meegan Cloughley, who sits on the Otago Polytechnic council, said the move would bring competition for seats from groups who felt they should be represented as of right.
"I am absolutely disgusted . . .
"The Government seems to want to turn students into cash cows rather than let them take ownership of their studies," Ms Cloughley said.
Student leaders including herself attending a national presidents' training conference at the weekend were "very disturbed and very disconcerted" by the move, she said.
Protest action was being planned locally and nationally, but the detail was not yet confirmed, Ms Cloughley said.
The Bill had moved "from a travesty to a farce", tertiary education union national secretary Sharn Riggs said in a statement yesterday.
"This was the Government that told us it wanted to get the nanny state government out of our lives and trust us to make our own decisions, and yet here they are removing the guarantee of staff and students having a say in their own education."