An Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) report on New Zealand’s tertiary education sector has been presented to the House of Representatives today, recommending an integrated and strategic approach to the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report Tertiary education sector: What we saw in 2021 focuses on two key areas – the ongoing vocational education reform programme and the impacts of the pandemic on the tertiary education sector.
“The vocational education reforms are the most significant reforms in the tertiary education sector in 25 years,” the Office said in a statement.
“They provide an opportunity for better accountability and reporting of performance by the sector to the people and communities it serves. We acknowledge the complexity and scale of the work that’s been done so far to implement the reforms.”
It said the creation of Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology in April 2020 was central to the reforms. On that date, the 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics were disestablished and became Crown entity subsidiary companies. The Education and Training Act 2020 states that the subsidiary companies will continue in existence until they become fully integrated with Te Pūkenga, which will be on 31 December 2022 at the latest.
“Te Pūkenga needs a robust performance and accountability framework for it, Parliament, and the public to understand how well the reforms are progressing. This framework needs to be transparent about whether Te Pūkenga has met its performance targets and show how Te Pūkenga will improve on its performance over time.”
“There is a real opportunity for Te Pūkenga to build a new and meaningful approach to engaging with the communities it serves. Part of that involves reporting on its performance to those communities. Not only does Te Pūkenga need to be accountable at a whole-of-system level, but it also needs a high level of regional and local accountability.
“…Although progress has been made on this, much remains to be done,” the OAG said.
It said neither the model nor the framework was ready to be implemented yet.
The Office said the COVID-19 pandemic had brought the education sector’s financial resilience into sharp focus and that while the pandemic had been disruptive and challenging, it had also led to changes in the way tertiary education institutions deliver tertiary education.
“This will likely lead to new ways of operating that will help tertiary education institutions to be financially sustainable in the long term.
“Given the many interdependencies the tertiary education sector has with other sectors, an integrated and strategic approach to the sector’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is needed.
“For example, labour market and immigration settings are directly relevant to tertiary education institutions’ operations.”
Any changes made to these settings could have significant impacts on the tertiary education sector, the OAG said.