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New Zealand: University councils to downsize

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By Sarah Robson

The Government’s decided to go ahead with plans to make university councils smaller and remove the requirement to have staff and student representatives on them.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says the changes will modernise councils and allow them to react quickly and more strategically.

The current limit of between 12 and 20 members will be reduced to between 12 and eight, and specific representative requirements will be removed, making council membership more flexible.

Mr Joyce says it’ll be up to universities to decide whether they include student representatives on their councils.

“The indications are that they will include student reps, I think we consider them adult enough to make those decisions,” he told reporters.

But New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations president Daniel Haines isn’t so confident.

“When you’re shrinking from 18 to eight, then definitely staff and students are going to be, I think, first in line to get removed from the decision making body,” he told NZ Newswire.

“Students are the largest stakeholders at a university and what they provide at the governance level is real, true insight into what it’s like to be at the coal face of the decisions that are getting made.”

Tertiary Education Union president Lesley Francey said there was no justification for the reforms.

“We regard any move to replace locally elected and chosen community, staff and student representatives with a council made of ministerial appointees and business leaders as an attack on democracy and on academic freedom.”

The changes will be included as part of an Education Amendment Bill which will be introduced to parliament soon and come into effect at the beginning on 2016.

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