Unis to produce more skilled employees for economy

BSNS papers to become compulsory for all students

A five-year tertiary education strategy that focuses on enabling students to leave university with skills employers want has received bipolar reviews from the TEU and the Greens.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce last week announced the Government would focus strongly on the outcomes of tertiary education as being a component of the wider New Zealand economy. The strategy seeks to “provide a stepping-stone to assisting communities and individuals to realise their full potential.”

The strategy sets out six key priorities, which include: delivering skills for industry; getting at-risk young people into careers; boosting achievement in Maori and Pasifika communities; improving adult literacy and numeracy; strengthening research-based institutions; and growing international links.

Joyce said that the tertiary education sector needs to be more “outward facing,” and needs to interact more with business, communities and the world economy. “Our tertiary education sector must continue to adapt and change to provide the skills and qualifications New Zealanders will need to contribute in the labour market in innovative and competitive ways.” He said the sector needs to work fast to offer more opportunities to students in ICT, engineering, science and agriculture – areas where there is “an insatiable demand” for graduates.

TEU national president Lesley Francey said the strategy was “a narrow and limiting view of tertiary education. It sees tertiary education’s main role as simply providing a free, publicly-trained workforce and free publicly-funded research to private businesses.” Francey said the strategy would mean that more money from a “shrinking funding pool” would be directed to education relevant only to business and meaning that other education less favourable to businesses would be left with less funding. “Tertiary education should be a treasure for all our communities, not simply a subsidy for businesses that have failed to invest in skills training or research and development.”

Green Party tertiary education spokesperson David Clendon said that the announcement “reflects this Government’s obsession with short term economic gain, rather than a balanced view of social, environmental and economic factors.”

Clendon feared that this “misguided emphasis on economics” was at odds with universities’ role of offering “depth in education across many disciplines.” He added that the strategy is a clear message that the work of those engaged in “vitally important non-economic activity” is of “less value.”
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2014.
Posted 4:35pm Sunday 9th March 2014 by Claudia Herron.