By: Lucy Bennett

Universities will be required to seek the approval of Parliament before they can change their names under an amendment to the Education Act proposed by Education Minister
Chris Hipkins.

The amendment will be included as a Supplementary Order Paper to the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) which is expected to have its third reading in Parliament tomorrow.

The change follows a controversy over Victoria University of Wellington’s bid to change its name to avoid being confused with other universities.

It backed down this week following stiff opposition to the proposal.

“I welcome Victoria University’s decision this week to keep its legal name – Victoria University of Wellington, and I look forward to the Government’s constructive relationship with the university continuing,” Hipkins said today.

“The matter did serve to highlight an anomaly with the Education Act, which in my view needs to be fixed to make the decision-making for a university name change more robust by including the involvement of all members of Parliament.

“This would align the process for a university name change with the higher bar required for the disestablishment of universities in the Act,” he said in a statement.

The Government had consulted the Opposition and a new process had been agreed.

If a university wished to change its legal name:

  • It must notify the Education Minister in writing of its proposal
  • The Minister must present the proposal by way of resolution to the House of Representatives
  • The House approves or declines the proposed name change by resolution of the House
  • If the House passes a resolution approving the name change, the Minister issues a Gazette notice

This process will apply only to universities, not other tertiary education institutions.

Other changes the Bill makes are pushing the school start age back to 5.

Under amendments made by the previous government, children could start at age 4 if they were enrolled as part of a cohort and if schools had such a policy.

The Bill will also repeal the planned start of Communities of Online Learning in December.

Also implemented by the previous government, it would have allowed the Education Minister to accredit public and private providers to offer online tuition to school students.

The Correspondence School (Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu) and Virtual Learning Networks would continue to offer distance education.

The Bill also allows the Minister to issue a Statement of Government Policy on one or more of the Teaching Council’s policies.

The council, as an independent entity, must have regard to such a statement but is not required to follow it.

The final amendment is also a requirement for private schools to ensure students’ physical and emotional safety and this would be considered by the ERO.

Source: NZ Herald


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