Destiny Church’s University Options

January 9th 2012 at 11:00am, By Dave Guerin


Destiny Church's Bishop Brian Tamaki. Credit: William Jackson, Wikipedia

Destiny Church is apparently planning a university. I’d seen last week’s story about them securing land for a new headquarters in Auckland but I’d missed the university angle until Labour’s Grant Robertson mentioned it on Facebook, saying:

“Putting aside the somewhat scary nature of this whole idea, Brian Tamaki cannot create a University. They are defined under the Education Act, and it’s far from easy to get a new one created (just ask the folk from Unitec). I am sure he will try to create some kind of Private Training Establishment, but even that will need some close scrutiny. Of course this won’t stop him donning some robes, giving himself an honorary doctorate or two and waving a mace around I suspect.” (I tidied up the original text)

Grant’s quite right that it is tough to become a university in New Zealand and that Brian Tamaki may well get himself a ceremonial mace (although the tertiary sector can hardly poke fun at people for silly costumes J), but I thought readers might enjoy exploring Destiny Church’s options in a bit more depth.

The way I see it, Destiny could fulfil its educational goals by becoming a university in its own right, becoming a PTE or seeking a partnership whereby an offshore university awards a degree to local graduates.

1. Stand Alone University

Becoming a university would be very hard because:

  1. the existing universities fight hard to maintain their limited club – experienced readers will remember the opposition from existing universities to AIT’s (now AUT) and Unitec’s (ceased its application) applications;
  2. S292 of the Education Act 1989 makes “university” a protected term so that no education organisation can use it without Ministerial approval (coming after a long and costly process) at pain of a $10,000 fine – the approval process is set out in S253C;
  3. prospective universities must meet various criteria but the toughest one for Destiny would probably be the requirement under S162(4)(b)(iii) that it have “a wide diversity of teaching and research”, whereas Destiny would probably want a small institution focused on theology and related courses; and
  4. lots of people would hate Destiny being a university and would make a lot of noise about it (although that’s probably the smallest barrier of the lot).

2. Simple PTE

Becoming a PTE would be easy enough for Destiny, as long as it hired people with the right expertise and backed them with resources. Hundreds of other organisations have done it and there’s no great barrier other than money and time. Destiny couldn’t call itself a university but it could offer recognised training without any great fuss.

3. PTE with Offshore University Partner

The easiest option to offer university degrees would be to become a PTE and then make a deal with an offshore university to actually confer degrees. Some PTEs did this before they were allowed to offer degrees directly (degree granting was restricted to universities up until 1991). From memory, both Laidlaw College (then Bible College of NZ) and Whitecliffe College of Art and Design had such offshore arrangements up until the early 90s. All the teaching and assessment could take place locally and be moderated by the overseas partner, but you need to be very careful that you’re not claiming to offer a degree yourself. In the same period, some polytechnics had degrees under NZ university auspices.

Some providers still work with offshore providers when it is hard to gain accreditation for a certain level of qualification (due to scale, cost, etc). Laidlaw still offers doctoral options via relationships with AUT, the University of Otago and the Australian College of Theology (Laidlaw offers supervision and support). Manukau Institute of Technology currently has a relationship with Australia’s Southern Cross University to offer masters programmes, even though it has no NZQA accreditation for masters programmes.

Partnering with an offshore university is a good way for an organisation to get a degree for its students, but the final value of the degree depends upon the reputation of the overseas university and the quality of the oversight of the NZ-based study. It’s certainly a lot cheaper and easier than setting up your own university.


I suspect that Destiny isn’t really too fussed about having a “university” but they probably want to carry out advanced training for their theological and community activities. They have some good options available to them and I wish them well. I shall also enjoy the outrage they evoke in otherwise liberal-minded people that is out of proportion to the religious group’s size, importance and threat to the world as we know it. What do you think about Destiny’s tertiary education plans and the options open to them?

7 Responses to Destiny Church’s University Options



January 9th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for the useful info.

While I may not agree with Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church, I don’t think they deserve to be vilified. They’re doing what other churches do.

One of the complaints against them is that they are not educated enough so why knock them for becoming more academic?

It normal for large (400+ people) Christian groups to have academic/theological training from in-house or closely-related offshoots. Most churches encourage members to train with some preferred organisation(s).



January 9th, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I think the words of Samuel Clemmens might be apt here.

“A man is accepted into a church for what he believes, and his is turned out for what he knows… “



January 14th, 2012 at 3:45 pm Have a good read and be better informed.


Dave Guerin

January 14th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Ant, it’s just a blog by a Destiny Church leader – what does it have to add to this discussion thread? I’m genuinely interested.



January 14th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Have a closer look through the blogs on that website, which answer directly to the arguements that the media put out there. Including about money, Bishop title, new land, cult accusations, etc etc.


Dave Guerin

January 14th, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Thanks Ant. I did have a read, but I don’t think we have any such arguments on this site.



January 14th, 2012 at 4:33 pm

You’re right as far as articles on this page. It’s just for general knowlege for people reading blog sites / news articles and taking on opinions without knowing the full story.

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