Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

The Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill amends the Education Act 1989 (the Act). The public policy objectives of the Bill are to ──

  • increase funding flexibility in the tertiary education system to enable tertiary education organisations (TEOs) to respond quickly to changes in student demand and Government policy:
  • further strengthen the accountability and monitoring of TEOs to ensure they continue to deliver improved outcomes for students:
  • ensure consistent treatment of public and private tertiary education providers to encourage performance and innovation.

Increasing funding flexibility

The Bill addresses the public policy objective of increasing funding flexibility in the tertiary education system by amending the Act to clarify that the responsible Minister can make changes to a funding mechanism; and place new conditions on funding when it is reasonably necessary, following consultation with affected TEOs, and with an appropriate lead-in time.

These amendments will enable the Minister to shift funding across the tertiary education sector as required. Consequently, the Minister will be able to approve funding mechanisms for longer time periods. If funding mechanisms are approved for longer time periods, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is more likely to approve longer investment plans, up to the statutory limit of 3 years.

Flexible funding and longer term investment plans will:

  • reduce the compliance burden for TEOs; and
  • provide TEOs with incentives to innovate and focus more on student demand and outcomes.

Further strengthening of monitoring and compliance

The Bill addresses the public policy objective of strengthening the monitoring and compliance of TEOs by making amendments to the Act to ──

  • allow the TEC to set conditions on TEO funding, which will enable the TEC to more effectively monitor TEOs and the wider tertiary system; and
  • require tertiary education institutions (TEIs) to maintain accurate records on their use of government funding and to make these records available for viewing by the TEC; and
  • allow the TEC to recover the costs of investigating a breach of a condition on funding approval where a breach of a condition on funding approval is found to have occurred, and to authorise the making of regulations for determining the criteria and limitations on the application of the TEC’s cost recovery.

These amendments will improve the ability of the TEC to monitor and investigate a TEO’s compliance with conditions on government funding. This will help to ensure that funding is used appropriately.

Consistent treatment of TEOs

The Bill addresses the public policy objective of ensuring a more consistent playing field by making amendments to ──

  • insert a broad principle of consistent funding into the Act; and
  • allow a wānanga to apply to use a protected term, such as university, in its title; and
  • align refund entitlements for domestic students enrolled in a short programme at a private training establishment (PTE) with those of international students.

The current Act treats public and private providers differently, and some of that differential treatment is not justified by the Government’s ownership interest in TEIs.

Inserting broad principle of consistent funding treatment into Act

The Act allows different types of providers to be funded at different rates for the same provision. The amendment will insert a principle of consistent funding treatment into the Act. This will ensure that tertiary education providers that offer programmes of study that result in similar qualifications are funded at the same rate.

Allowing wānanga to apply to use a protected term

The Act restricts use of four terms, university, college of education, polytechnic and institute of technology. It is an offence to describe an educational establishment using one of these terms unless it is ──

  • established as an institution of that type under section 162 of the Act; or
  • a registered establishment that has been granted ministerial consent under section 253C of the Act to use a protected term.

To reflect modern developments, the amendment will allow wānanga to apply for ministerial consent to use a protected term in the same way that PTEs can.  Any wānanga applying to use protected terms must follow the same process to obtain consent, and meet the same strict criteria that are already in place for PTEs.

Aligning refund entitlement of domestic students enrolled in short course at PTE with those of international students

The Act allows international students to withdraw from a short course at a PTE within a period of less than seven days, and receive a refund. However, the Act is silent on the rules for refund entitlements of domestic students withdrawing from such courses at PTEs. In these situations, the PTE decides how much to refund a domestic student, which could be nothing or the full amount.

The amendment will align the refund entitlements of domestic students enrolled in a short course at a PTE with the refund entitlements of international students. 

Miscellaneous amendments

Miscellaneous amendments are made to the Act to ──

  • enable State and State-integrated schools to manage international student misconduct outside of school, including through the use of stand-down, suspension, exclusion, and expulsion, so they can uphold their contractual duty to ensure international students’ health, safety, and wellbeing,
  • extend the Export Education Levy reimbursement provisions to cover private and Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua. This allows international students to be reimbursed for their fees and continue to study in New Zealand in the event that the school they are studying at should fail,
  • make it an offence for a person to falsely award credits to a student studying towards a qualification. This allows the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to pursue action against TEOs for falsely awarding credits, to students who have not been appropriately assessed for those credits,
  • allow TEIs to pool assets from a number of trusts to create a common fund for investment purposes. Pooling assets in to a common fund provides economies of scale and administrative efficiencies, and creates the opportunity to generate a higher return on an investment,
  • change the term private training establishment to independent tertiary establishment to allay PTE concerns that that “private” implies they are for-profit, when, in practice, PTEs cover a range of types of organisational forms, from small trusts to large conglomerate not-for-profit and for-profit education providers,
  • require providers to publish compulsory student services fee (CSSF) information on their websites (such as CSSF amount per equivalent full-time student, CSSF decision-making processes, and how students can be involved in CSSF decisions) so students have access to this information,
  • modernise TEI council operations, such as allowing councils to convene meetings via teleconference or other electronic means,
  • make changes to, or clarify, a number of technical matters relating to funding and reporting, such as clarifying that funding can be withdrawn, in whole or in part, on request by a TEO.

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