People concerned with tertiary education in New Zealand have a unique opportunity to influence its future. The 4th of May is the deadline for the first round of the current inquiry of the New Zealand Productivity Commission (@NZprocom) into “New Models in Tertiary Education”. There is an issue paper with lots of questions it is asking and a background on the tertiary education system in New Zealand. According to the issue paper:

Why you should make a submission
The Commission aims to provide insightful, well-informed and accessible advice that leads to the best possible improvement in the wellbeing of New Zealanders. Submissions help the Commission to gather ideas, opinions and information…

How to make a submission
Anyone can make a submission. It may be in written, electronic or audio format. A submission can range from a short letter on a single issue to a more substantial document covering many issues. Please provide supporting facts, figures, data, examples and documentation where possible…

Murray Sherwin from the Commission came to the University of Canterbury on 6 April 2016 to give a UC Connect lecture. The main reason for this inquiry seems to be that higher levels of education in New Zealand have not translated into more national productivity (issue paper references the “considerable inertia” and unwillingness to try new things). The Commission has been asked to look at big trends in tertiary education and new models. It will focus on educational outcomes and what a good education system looks like and how that quality can be assessed.

Sherwin began with a brief overview of the Commission’s purpose. It was modelled after the Australian Productivity Commission to give independent advice to the government. He said it is about producing more with less and working smarter not harder. The New Zealand Government specifies the topics for the inquiries. This means that referring ministers have an interest in the outcome and results. It has already completed eight other inquiries in its five-year history.

Sherwin acknowledged that the consequences of worldwide trends in technology, for example, will be far-reaching and uncomfortable for many. Education has multiple purposes and stakeholders, so sometimes one might have to be pursued less than others. However, because the government invests so much funding in tertiary education, it is necessary for there to be some forms of performance measures. For example, one issue could be that there are no mandatory qualifications for tertiary educators like there are for primary and secondary teachers.

He said that universities are responsive to changes in government funding, but not always in the ways that government expects. When universities change to comply, compliance can actually impede innovation. The goal is to find out what is stopping innovation and decreasing productivity, and then improve the system.


Slide from Sherwin’s (2016) lecture



New Zealand Productivity Commission. 2016. New models of tertiary education: Issues paper. www.productivity.govt.nz/inquiry-content/tertiary-education

Sherwin, Murray. 2016 April 6. “What can a five-year old Productivity Commission add to a thousand-year old institution?” UC Connect lecture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQMNmgV0tvA&index=2&list=PL1D0DE06F56864BA4