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From the Chair: Navigating the future - Challenges and opportunities for our universities

17 April 2024 | news

Professor Cheryl de la Rey
Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor
University of Canterbury
Chair of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee

After much anticipation, the two advisory groups that have been established to provide the Government with advice on this country’s future science system and its future university system have been announced.

The Chairperson for the Advisory Groups, Sir Peter Gluckman, is well-known to the sector, and he has considerable national and international experience covering both higher education and science systems. The Vice-Chancellors have had a very constructive initial discussion with Sir Peter, and we welcome his commitment to consultative engagement with the sector.

There is a real and urgent funding gap that needs to be addressed.

The terms of reference of the Advisory Groups are wide-ranging and the recommendations are likely to have long-term implications for the future of our sector. They include the fact that “Universities in particular are collectively forecasting a deficit for the 2024 year for the first time on the Tertiary Education Commission’s record.”

Our major concern (also eloquently framed by the Tertiary Education Commission in advice to the new Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills in November last year) is that Government controls 80% of university sector income. That income has only grown by 8% since 2019, but inflation has grown by 21%.

Undoubtedly there are long term settings that will deliver a better university system for whatever our country will look like in ten or twenty years. I can personally see a number of opportunities and I look forward to proposing and discussing them with the Advisory Group.

Although we can’t predict what our country will look like in 2034, or what the priorities of the day will be, there are some clear trends in demographics, technology, work force skills and scientific innovation, that provide us with a strong basis for planning.