2015 New Year Honours in Tertiary Education

January 5th 2015 at 11:47am, By Dave Guerin

The New Year Honours List 2015 was released on 31 Dec 2014 and had 16 people with tertiary education connections (we have excluded alumni). They are listed below, starting from the highest honours received. We will probably have missed a few, so feel free to add them in comments and we will update the post.

We’d also like to congratulate Br Pat Lynch for getting a knighthood – he has played a very productive role in the schools sector.

Knight Companion of the NZ Order of Merit (KNZM)

  • Mr Neville Jordan, CNZM, of Lower Hutt. For services to business, science and the community. He was elected Chancellor of Victoria Uni in Dec 2014, after joining the Council in 2013 (Fairfax, Victoria and Victoria again).

Companion of the NZ Order of Merit (CNZM)

  • Professor Emeritus John Talbot Boys, of Auckland. For services to science. He helped develop inductive power transfer technology at Auckland Uni – an application of which was spun out via HaloIPT, one of NZ’s biggest university research commercialisation successes.
  • Emeritus Professor Patrick John Walsh, of Wellington. For services to tertiary education. Pat is the former Vice-Chancellor of Victoria Uni – he retired last year (Victoria).

Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM)

  • Ms Robyn Jane Baker, of Wellington. For services to education. Robyn stepped down in late 2014 after 14 years as head of the NZ Council for Educational Research and now does some work with Waikato Uni (Waikato).
  • Professor Emeritus Gary Leroy Hermansson, of Palmerston North. For services to the field of sport psychology. Gary’s work at Massey has been complemented by involvement in every NZ Olympics and Commonwealth Games team since 1998 (RNZ, Manawatu Standard, Massey).
  • Associate Professor Kathryn Mary Stowell, of Palmerston North. For services to biomedical science. She is an associate professor at Massey (Manawatu Standard).
  • Mr Kukupa Tirikatene, of Auckland. For services to Māori and education. He is the kaumatua for MIT (Māori TV).

Member of the NZ Order of Merit (MNZM)

  • Mr Henry Walter Bell, of Motueka. For services to the mining industry. He was a miner, mine manager and mine inspector and then taught at Tai Poutini Polytechnic, retiring last year at the age of 80 (Nelson Mail).
  • Ms Rosemary Gordon, of Wellington. For services to legal education. She is the CE of the NZ Council of Legal Education.
  • Dr Susan Jane Hickey, of Auckland. For services to people with disabilities. She is a research fellow at AUT.
  • Dr Susan Haas Jacobs, of Napier. For services to nursing education. She is the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Health Sciences at EIT (Hawke’s Bay Today).
  • Dr Elizabeth Anne Limbrick, of Auckland. For services to education. She is a principal lecturer at Auckland Uni.
  • Professor Jens Helmut Friedrich Mueller, of Tauranga. For services to business and education. He is an associate professor at Waikato Uni (Bay of Plenty Times, Waikato).
  • Mr Ben Penita Taufua, of Auckland. For services to the Pacific community. He is the Senior Manager Pasifika at Massey Uni (RNZ, Massey).
  • Mrs Geraldine Barbara Leslie Travers, of Hastings. For services to education. She is a council member at EIT (Hawke’s Bay Today).

Queens Service Medal (QSM)

  • Mrs Jean Valentine Rockel, of Auckland. For services to early childhood education. She is a research fellow at Auckland Uni.

Guest Post – A more objective perspective on contestable funding

December 17th 2014 at 2:30pm, By Dave Guerin

This guest post is from Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI). ED Blog welcomes guest contributions.

Under headlines such as “Polytechnic cash given to private businesses” and “$29 million cut from polytechnics”, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) asserts that money is being systematically stripped out of Polytechnics and literally just given to businesses.  The clear implications behind the argument are that ITPs are being damaged, some students are missing out on education, and that private providers are not providing a quality education with the additional money they receive.

This argument has been prompted by the new contestable funding process for Level One and Level Two qualifications.  This has just completed its second round and while the full results have not been officially released, it is possible to draw several conclusions about the realities of contestable funding.

In this opinion piece, the third in a series, I would like to make four points.  One, the Government introduced contestability for a reason.  Two, students are not missing out as the amount of foundation provision is the same.  Three, PTEs are not being gifted funding, they are earning it.  Four, quality was the key consideration in the contestable process, not value for money.

The decision to create a contestable funding process for part (and it should be noted it is just a part) of the Level One and Two funding pool was made by the Government and it absolutely has the right to do so.  Government has responsibilities to students and taxpayers, as well as providers.  The key is to realise that the Government did not introduce contestability because it was happy with existing results in the ITP sector.  Clearly, it was not.  They wanted to improve results by allowing new providers into the system, and introducing different ways of delivering foundation education.  The focus was on results for learners.

The TEU argued that money was “stripped” out of polytechnics and “gifted to private for-profit companies.”  TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs bluntly said “Mr Joyce took $12 million out of our public education system and gave it to companies that want to make a profit off students.” (http://teu.ac.nz/2012/09/polytechnic-cash-given-to-private-businesses/) I’ve addressed the fallacy that all private providers are profit-driven or even commercial in an earlier opinion piece.

Here, it is important to note that the amount of money invested in foundation education remained roughly the same.  So while some individual ITPs lost funding, that had to occur in order for a small number of PTEs to gain funding.  Contestable funding is essentially about how the funding pool is divided.  Therefore, foundation students are not missing out – learners may just be attending a different provider than they would have under the previous structure.

The TEU ignores this when they argue “opening up more of the level 1-2 funding could potentially remove our public institutions from the delivery of foundation education.  If this happens, there will be a gap in the otherwise seamless provision of public education.  We guarantee public education for early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary level from level 3 to level 8, but in the future could leave out those students who need it most – those seeking foundation learning.” (http://teu.ac.nz/2012/07/privatising-level-1-2-students-education-an-unnecessary-gamble/)

ITI rejects as ridiculous the repeated assertions that funding was “gifted” or “given” to PTEs – they had to work very hard to have an application approved and will have to deliver strong results.  PTEs were made to go through exactly the same application process as ITPs, but they are generally far smaller organisations which made the work, if anything, more onerous.

Additionally, PTEs are absolutely held to account for their results and the funding can easily be removed from them at the end of the contract.  The TEU has also started to refer to public funding going to private providers as “corporate welfare” but I will deal with this topic in a future piece.

It was disappointing to see the TEU seriously running the line that the “Tertiary Education Commission – the body that handled the tender process – admitted in its documentation at the time that it granted funding on the basis of ‘value for money’ rather than quality of education.” (http://teu.ac.nz/2014/08/domestic-students-migrate/) I suspect that that the TEC would not accept that it made any such admissions.

In fact, TEC stressed the importance of quality throughout the process.  There was a high quality hurdle which had to be met to even have an application considered.  Quality was fundamental throughout TEC’s decision-making process.  Yes, some consideration was given to value for money (as was clearly noted in the documentation) but that is to be expected whenever taxpayer money is being used.

The implication that funding went to the lowest bidder is insulting to all the successful providers, which in this case includes a large number of ITPs who gained or retained funding in either round.  Surely the TEU is not implying these ITPs were only successful because they offered cheaper, lower quality courses?

Future posts will examine two phrases that are beginning to haunt the private tertiary sector – “niche provision” and “corporate welfare”.

As a disclaimer, several members of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI) applied for Level One and Level Two funding in each round.  However, this type of funding does not represent a substantive field for any ITI member.  We are commenting on this issue because of the broader questions raised about how public and private providers should be treated.


Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI), December 2014

John Scott on Bahrain Case

September 11th 2014 at 7:05pm, By Dave Guerin

Earlier today, I ran a post on a court case involving John Scott, former CPIT CE, that resulted in a conviction in Bahrain (see story). John contacted me in the last hour and gave me his views on the issue (I emailed him just before publishing the original post). He has since forwarded me an email, and I have quoted the body of that in full below, as it provides the other side of the story.

I  first heard of this through an email from a friend  2 days ago. There has been no contact with me from anyone in Bahrain. There have been no charges and no indication of any court case, so it is  all somewhat bizarre. I left Bahrain in early 2012. Needless to say but it is all a complete fabrication without one shred of truth in it.

Before  I resigned the Polytechnic had been subjected to a wide range of audits and nothing like this had appeared in any of the reports. Before I received my settlement payment from the Poly all outstanding financial issues had been resolved to the satisfaction of the Chairman and the Ministry.

However in the context of the aftermath of the uprisings in Bahrain the  ongoing attacks by the Minister of Education are not surprising. This is about discrediting the Polytechnic and the educational initiatives put in place by the Crown Prince of Bahrain. The initiatives targeted education because the Minister was doing such a bad job. Bahrain Polytechnic was set up outside his direct control and he had no impact on the Polytechnic until after the uprisings.

When the Crown Prince failed in his attempt to reconcile the factions by negotiations and dialogue, the Prime Minister and the “Hawks” as they are known among the more liberal Bahraini, took charge  and the reprisals started. This included the disbanding of the Economic Development Board as had been set up by the Crown Prince, the abandoning of most of the reforms and the introduction of very tough iron fist approach reprisals. The Polytechnic Board was replaced with strict Sunni control, and there is an ongoing discrediting of the earlier reforms as in the eyes of many of the old guard, the Crown Prince and his reforms were in large part responsible for the uprisings.

The Minister of Education Majid Al Nuami is a vicious and vindictive ex -brigadier who knows nothing of value about education and who was responsible for the targeting and expelling of students, almost all Shia, who he claimed were ‘dangerous” and a threat to the regime. He tried to force me to sack Shia staff, especially those in senior positions and I refused. When an independent report criticised his actions, all students were reinstated and the rhetoric was that the state should apologise. No one did except me. I invited all the students back, met with them all and apologised for their unjust treatment. From that point, the minister and his minions went after me.

However, I’m just a pawn in their bigger game which is to discredit the Pro-reform faction and the Crown Prince, They can’t come out and criticise the CP in person, or even his judgement in initiating the reforms. They won’t attack the Board of trustees so they go after the Ex-pats and the organisation, the Polytechnic.

The actual details of the charges are also ridiculous. I had travel allowances and an expense account within my contract signed off and approved monthly by the board. Maybe they are claiming it is these that constitute the ‘charges’.

I wouldn’t know as they have not asked me, nor have I seen any details  related to this case.”


Dave Guerin

Which ex-Poly CE has been Sentenced to Jail?

September 11th 2014 at 2:33pm, By Dave Guerin

A report from Bahrain stated that John Scott, ex-CE of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, had been sentenced to jail for 5 years for alleged embezzlement. The Gulf Daily News had the following report on Tuesday. UPDATE 7pm: John Scott has provided a detailed response – read it.

“FORMER Bahrain Polytechnic chief executive John Scott was sentenced to five years in jail yesterday for embezzlement.

However, the 69-year-old from New Zealand was not in the High Criminal Court to hear the verdict and is believed to be abroad.

Judges found him guilty of using polytechnic bank cards to pay for his personal expenses during his tenure from 2008 to 2011. The violation was uncovered by the Financial Audit Bureau, which formed a committee to monitor his spending based on an order from Education Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi. An auditing expert was also appointed by the Public Prosecution to review the accounts.

Prosecutors said he spent BD4,365 of the polytechnic’s money on alcohol and food and withdrew another BD400 in cash for himself. He was also accused of spending BD7,772 on plane tickets for himself and his wife, while he also owes the university BD130 that he stole after refunding a plane ticket.”

Since the Bahrain Dinar is worth NZ$3.24, the 12,667 dinars cited in the story would be worth NZ$41,041.

I covered the upheavals at Bahrain Polytechnic in March 2012, at which point a financial inquiry had been called for. I understand John Scott is back in NZ. As you might expect, comments on this story will be moderated closely.

Dave Guerin

Startup Weekend Education – 54 Hours to New Ideas

September 3rd 2014 at 12:17pm, By Dave Guerin

I love playing with new ideas and new business so it was a pleasure to be invited in as a mentor for Wellington’s Startup Weekend on Education last weekend. It’s 54 hours of craziness for the startup teams, but I got away lightly with about 24 hours at the venue.

People have 1 minute to pitch an idea on Friday night – the ideas that attract a team get worked on for the next 54 hours. The end result is a pitch to judges on Sunday night, which is judged on:

  • business model (how will it work);
  • validation (do customers support the idea?);
  • execution (have they produced a product?); and
  • for last weekend’s focus, educational impact.

You might wonder what can be developed over a weekend, but it’s an impressive process.

  • By 1am on Friday night, the teams had mostly agreed a plan and set out team roles (some hadn’t, and some pivoted, or changed their focus, over the weekend).
  • On Saturday morning, teams were reaching out to social media and doing interviews around Wellington to test customer feedback. This feedback process would continue through the weekend, as teams built landing pages (promoted via social media and Google AdWords) to collect emails and further test ideas. Mentors were also able to help connect people with potential customers. Validation mattered, because a startup idea only matters if someone else is willing to pay/engage.
  • By Saturday night, teams were ready for their first practice pitch to mentors, a process they would repeat twice more on Sunday. The criticism was strong but supportive. The teams redeveloped, or merely tweaked, their business between the practice pitches.
  • On Saturday and Sunday, the designers and developers on the teams swung into action, developing prototype websites (and sometimes just mock-ups of websites for the pitch presentations…)
  • Over the whole weekend, the best teams had close collaborations between those doing market research, competitor scans, design, development, pitches, sales strategies and financial models.
  • One of the participants has written her own experience of the weekend, which is a great read.

By Sunday night, 12 exciting ideas had developed into some exciting businesses. The links below are often to 1-page sites, and don’t reflect the quality and depth of the final pitches.

  1. StudyNinja – school exam study plans
  2. Tiputech – helping autistic youth into the tech industry
  3. Jobteam – putting together a team to fill a 40 hour role
  4. Making Tracks – showcasing the journeys taken by inspiring Kiwis
  5. Monkey C#, Monkey Do – teaching coding
  6. Orientation Aotearoa – a gap year in NZ
  7. School Comms – helping schools get the message to parents
  8. Banqer – interactive financial literacy for primary school students
  9. Groov.r – learning to dance, pivoted to helping guys meet girls (and got the whole pitch crowd of 150 or so dancing in a break)
  10. IdeaVolt – kids solving real world problems by being guided through an innovation process
  11. Rover – live lecture feedback tool (no link, but they had a live demonstration at their pitch)
  12. I know What I Like – helping improve engagement of art gallery visitors (no link)

Banqer was the winner on the night, having tested their idea with teachers, and gained serious interest from banks – their tagline was “become a classroom tycoon”. If you want to see how people reacted to the various pitches, you can check out #swedunz on Twitter from 5-8pm on Sunday 31 Aug.

While there was a winner on the night, what impressed me most was the intensity of the learning experience for the teams, and the positive attitude that they showed. Not everything goes well when you throw together a team of strangers, and add time pressure, but people worked through the pain.

For me, it was magic to see the teams develop, and they inspired me to get on with some ideas I have simmering away.

If Startup Weekend interests you, get involved! It is a global phenomenon, with 12 other events running last weekend alone, from Sarajevo to Bangalore.

Dave Guerin

Guest Post – The Facts about Funding for PTEs

August 15th 2014 at 1:42pm, By Guest Post

This guest post is from Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI). ED Blog welcomes guest contributions.

Following on from my previous opinion piece defending the educational performance of commercial and not-for-profit Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and the ability of the private sector to contribute to better outcomes for New Zealand, I now want to examine the Tertiary Education Union’s (TEU’s) comments regarding taxpayer funding for PTEs.

In general, taxpayer funding going to PTEs (particularly commercial PTEs) seems to make the TEU very “angry”.  National President Lesley Francey told the 2013 TEU conference “we’ve got a lot to be angry about.”  In particular, she said “it makes me angry that our taxes are being used to create private profit and not public good.”  I would argue strongly that the education that PTEs provide to learners and graduates is a clear example of public good.  Again, we should be focussing on outcomes and not ownership.

This attitude is not new.  The TEU’s negative view of PTEs was clearly set out in their 2011 policy on PTE funding.  The key section reads:

“The TEU does not support public funding for private training establishments.  We believe that New Zealand’s small population base and constrained national tertiary education budget renders public funding of private training establishments economically inefficient and educationally unsound.  Continued public funding of PTEs has resulted in duplication of provision, inefficient use of limited resources, and the establishment of providers that lack economic and educational viability…  Continued public funding of private training establishments may eventually lead to the erosion of our national system of public tertiary education institutions. First and foremost therefore the TEU will always advocate for public funding to be allocated to public tertiary education institutions.”

One of the main priorities in Te Kaupapa Whaioranga – the TEU’s current Blueprint for Tertiary Education – is “spending public, taxpayer funding on public education not private companies.”  Literally, recommendation 1.1 states the Government should focus on “ensuring taxpayer funding goes to publicly owned tertiary education providers.”   The 2011 policy bluntly stated “the TEU does not support public funding for private training establishments” and, while the 2013 version is slightly more nuanced, that appears to remain the ultimate policy aim.

If implemented, this policy would send a message to 75,079 PTE domestic learners and 11,994 international students (in 2013) that “you chose your education provider incorrectly and will therefore receive no Government support for your studies.”  The message to thousands of PTE staff would be “sorry, maybe you should apply for a job at the Polytech where the roll is declining.”  In reality, the Government provides relatively modest support for PTEs (given the $4 billion plus tertiary education budget) and in return receives a generally strong return on their investment.

There are three key assertions in the TEU’s position which I wish to dispute.  They assert that PTEs are “economically inefficient.”  I believe the opposite is the case.  PTEs are often required to provide the same (or better) education for less funding support.  The funding rates have traditionally been lower and PTEs have not had access to large numbers of supporting funding pools or capital funding.  ITI is keen to document this and later in the year we hope to publish research confirming that PTEs provide genuine value for money for the Government.

The second TEU assertion is that PTEs are educationally unsound.  Putting aside the huge professional insult to all PTE staff, including, we are told, some TEU members, this cannot be allowed to stand.  PTEs perform strongly in the universal Educational Performance Indicators (EPI) and our results compare favourably to public providers.  PTEs are also subject to NZQA’s External Evaluation and Review (EER) process, TEC’s Financial Viability checks, as well as registration and accreditation processes.  PTEs are a heavily scrutinised and quality assured sector.  Many of these requirements do not apply to public providers.

Finally, there is the claim that “continued public funding of private training establishments may eventually lead to the erosion of our national system of public tertiary education institutions.”   This massively over-states the amount of taxpayer money which goes to PTEs.  Any money “saved” from disestablishing PTEs would be quickly swallowed up in the public education system and I doubt it would make much impact for providers, far less students.

Additionally, we consider the diversity of PTEs to be a strength – they are able to work in specialist fields of study and provide a range of learning environments.  Small class sizes and practical training are also positive in many fields.  These are all reasons why PTEs are consistently ranked highly by employers in Business NZ surveys.

In the next post I will examine the realities of the new contestable funding process for Level One and Level Two qualifications and debunk the deliberate myth that funding has been cut.


Feroz Ali, Chair of Independent Tertiary Institutions (ITI)