When the Tertiary Education Commission was being set up in 2002, the Minister in charge Steve Maharey was not all that keen for there to be student representation at the Board level. He argued it was not a representative body, and if students were given a seat as of right then that would open up the argument for too many other groups.
With the input of Nandor Tanczos and NZUSA a decision was made that there should be a non-voting student member of the Board. As is the way of these things Simon Power as the then Opposition Spokesperson tried to simultaneously claim credit for, and trash the idea.
And since the TEC has been established there has a been a student representative (in TEC speak a Non Voting Learner Representative). The role has been filled by a range of people and the feedback I have had is that the person has always given useful insights and behaved in a professional way.
So its a real slap in the face that the decision has been made to abolish the position. A double slap because there was no consultation, and this only emerged because NZUSA dragged the information out from the TEC. And it adds to a pattern from this government of taking away student voice (Polytechnic Councils, VSM, proposed reform of Uni Councils).
The TEC are dressing this up as being a reflection of their changed role with the policy function for tertiary education moving to the Ministry of Education. While that does represent a changed role, the tasks they still undertake remain important enough to students to justify the continuation of the position.
There is no better example of this than when the TEC considers at its next Board meeting the applications from Massey and Victoria universities to go beyond the maximum allowable fee increase (4%) to reportedly 8% for some courses. This is exactly the kind of discussion where a student perspective would be helpful, and in fact the right thing to have.
So, it comes down to Steven Joyce. He has the ability to direct the TEC to reinstate the position. Its time he channelled a bit of Simon Power’s enthusiasm for a student voice from a decade ago and did the right thing. Or is this a further nail in the coffin of the democratic traditions of supporting the right for dissenting voices. Your choice Steven.