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Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills, and Employment Steven Joyce told the Otago Daily Times recently that transparency at a governance level was a key part of ensuring tertiary providers met their commitment of delivering the best results for the students they train.
"Obviously, it's appropriate to do so in as transparent a manner as possible within the normal constraints of running this type of institution".
Instructions were issued to tertiary institution governance boards to, "above all else", run their institutions to achieve the best results possible for the students they trained, Mr Joyce said in an emailed statement.
His comments came after reports the minister had also instructed his officials to explore international approaches to assess the current state of the New Zealand tertiary sector's governance models.
Opposition MP and Labour Party tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson recently asked, in a written question, whether Mr Joyce intended to implement a National Party policy to "improve the governance and operations of publicly owned tertiary institutions".
In response, Mr Joyce said officials would assess existing governance models of tertiary institutions and assess whether changes should be advised to the sector.
Tertiary Education Union president Dr Sandra Grey backed calls for the governance boards of New Zealand's tertiary providers to be as transparent and open as possible.
There was a huge variance across the tertiary sector as to how governance bodies, such as university and polytechnic councils, managed their public agenda, she said.
Often the Government-driven framework within which tertiary providers operated created a "pseudo-market".
This resulted in institutions, such as universities, claiming "commercial sensitivity" as the reason to keep governance matters behind closed doors at a council level - something Dr Grey said she disagreed with.
"They are public institutions and, as such, they have to be publicly accountable to their local community, staff, and students."
It was important governing bodies were democratic, and that local communities including staff and students had a say in the governance of their institutions.
Public debate always made for a much broader responsibility, she said.