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Potential barriers to innovation in tertiary education revealed

21 Mar 17

A new report from the Productivity Commission has identified potential barriers to innovation within New Zealand’s tertiary education system.

The New Models of Tertiary Education report is a broad-ranging inquiry into how well New Zealand’s tertiary education system is set up to respond to emerging trends in technology and the internationalisation of education, and changes in the structure of the population, and the skills needed in the economy and society.

As part of the inquiry, the Productivity Commission was asked to identify potential barriers to innovation. 

“A good tertiary education system is one that meets the needs of all learners – including those from diverse backgrounds and with diverse goals. Our current system serves many students well. But it could be better, and it could do more to extend the benefits of tertiary education to groups who currently can’t access it, explains commission chair, Murray Sherwin. 

“This is a tightly controlled and inflexible system. Providers have too few incentives to find better ways of reaching and teaching learners,” he says.

“This report and its package of recommendations seek to give providers the scope to innovate in the delivery of tertiary education, and incentives to do so.”

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Better quality control and self-accreditation for strong performers
  • Making it easier for students to transfer between courses
  • Abolishing University Entrance
  • Better careers education for young people
  • Enabling tertiary institutions to own and control their assets
  • Making it easier for new providers to enter the system
  • Facilitating more and faster innovation by tertiary education providers

The Commission has not recommended a Student Education Account, which it had floated in a September 2016 draft report, saying the preconditions required for student accounts were not present in the New Zealand system.

However, the report does recommend changes to how student places are centrally-allocated to tertiary providers.

“Government largely controls the allocation of resources in the system, but our assessment is that those resources don’t flow to providers who are innovative, of high quality, or responsive to student needs,” says Sherwin.

“The allocation of places between providers should be based on student demand. This report sets out in some detail how this could work much better,” he says.

Sherwin says the Government needs a different regulatory and funding model if it is to enable innovative models of tertiary education.

“Together, the recommendations in this report will create valuable dynamism and experimentation that is currently lacking in the tertiary education system,” says Sherwin.

“They will also enable more New Zealanders to participate and succeed in tertiary education.

“The report provides the recipe for a system that is diverse, adaptable and responsive – in other words, a system that supports new models, and is better able to respond to the new models of education that are being developed elsewhere,” he says.

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