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COVID-19 impact on students in tertiary education

The Government understands there is still uncertainty for students as the impacts of COVID-19 continue to unfold. Our key priorities in response to COVID-19 have been to make sure students can continue their studies and are able to access financial support and pastoral care.

We will continue to look at ways we can support students as we recover from COVID-19. In doing so, it is especially important that students’ voices are heard and heeded.

We are working on improving student voice in tertiary education

In 2018, we started a conversation with Aotearoa New Zealand about what matters most in education. As part of the Kōrero Mātauranga | Education Conversation, we have heard from students, whānau, educators and communities about the importance of student voice to students, staff and providers.

We also heard there are pockets of good practice in our tertiary system where student voice is listened to and incorporated. But there is also room for improvement.

We consulted with the public from 21 August to 4 October 2019 on the current state of student voice. We also wanted to hear how student voice works for students, staff, and providers, and how it could be enhanced across three areas:

  • increasing accountability, greater support, and sustainable resourcing;
  • making structural changes; and
  • establishing a national centre for student voice.

The discussion document from this consultation can be viewed here: Tertiary Student Voice Discussion Paper [PDF 737KB].

Thank you to everyone who participated in the consultation

The ideas, thoughts and opinions you shared will help shape our thinking around ways to enhance student voice in Aotearoa New Zealand’s tertiary education system. The results from this consultation are now available.

We heard from a wide range of people across Aotearoa New Zealand, including through 329 survey responses, 18 written submissions, and nine face-to-face meetings.

Through consultation, we heard there is room to improve student voice

There were nine key themes that were raised about how student voice currently works and how it could be enhanced going forward. These were: 

  • Inconsistencies: some providers have effective mechanisms for hearing and responding to student voice. But others do not, and when they do capture student voice it is used as a non-genuine ‘tick-box’ exercise.
  • Resourcing: many local and national level students’ associations struggle to secure resourcing, which results in a weakened collective voice.
  • Power imbalances: students are often outnumbered, unwelcomed, and not as well prepared as other more senior members on governance structures.
  • Closing feedback loops: students often do not know how their voices are used to inform decision-making. Closing the loop helps to ensure decision-making is transparent, which is key to enabling students to hold their providers accountable.
  • Māori and community voices: the voices of Māori, Pacific, disabled, international, LGBTQIA+, and workplace learners are often overlooked. These students want to be given opportunities to engage, participate, and hold leadership roles.
  • Partnership approach: there is value in taking a collaborative approach to student voice between students, staff and local communities. A more inclusive approach can help foster and support enduring relationships that form the foundation of a strong and sustainable student voice system.
  • Benefits: student leaders gain valuable experience and skills that can increase their employability. These include leadership, critical thinking, and relationship building.
  • One-size-fits-all does not work: it will be more effective to support providers to work with their students to design an approach that fits their unique context.
  • Multiple channels: there is value in having multiple, diverse ways to capture student voices.

There was wide support for the focus areas as a means to enhance student voice

There was broad support for the three focus areas with particularly strong support for establishing a national centre for student voice. Many people noted a national centre as a key way to enhance student voice in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

For more detail about the feedback we received through consultation, please see the two papers below:

  • This paper [PDF 554KB] provides more detail on what people thought about the three focus areas. This covers what we heard through the survey, written submissions, and face-to-face meetings.  
  • This paper [PDF 892KB] provides a more detailed breakdown of what we heard through the student voice survey.

What we have been working on in the meantime

We have recently published the Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021. From 1 January 2022, this code will replace the interim code for domestic learners which came into effect on 1 January 2020, and the code for international learners which has been in place for many years.

Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 | Education.govt.nz

Regulations to better support international students

The code has a strong student voice lens, including enhanced expectations that providers will work with diverse learners and their communities to develop, review, and improve learner wellbeing and safety practices; and that providers will have processes for actively hearing, engaging with, and developing the voices of diverse learners.

The code also includes strengthened requirements for providers’ reporting and publishing, to increase transparency and ensure learners have sufficient information and resources to participate fully in decision-making processes.

You can read the complete code below.

Education (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021

Whiria Ngā Rau: Progressing from Student Voice to Partnerships

Whiria Ngā Rau: Progressing from Student Voice to Partnerships rethinks tertiary 'student voice' and provides a framework for our system to progress towards a future where learners are vital, well-supported partners in an education system that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

This framework was developed through a collaborative process building on the research, training practices and lived experience of student leaders, with support from the Ministry of Education.

Whiria Ngā Rau

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the work on enhancing student voice in tertiary education, please contact us at the Tertiary Strategy Mailbox: Tertiary.Strategy@education.govt.nz