Governance of Tertiary Education Institutions

Governance framework

The tertiary education institutions (TEIs) are governed by autonomous councils whose roles and functions are set out in the Education Act 1989. The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (the Minister) appoints four members to each council with the remainder appointed in accordance with each council’s constitution or statute.

University and wānanga councils have between 12 and 20 members. Institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs), which were reconstituted in 2010, generally consist of eight members. The Minister also appoints the Chair and Deputy Chair of ITP councils.

University and wānanga council members’ terms of office are normally four years. Appointments to polytechnic councils are for a term of up to four years, and a shorter term of two or three years may be used by the Minister to help councils in succession planning. Members are able to remain in office until reappointed or replaced, so council members may serve beyond the end of their term of office.

Effective councils provide clear strategic leadership and set and monitor the achievement of challenging targets. They have well-informed members who have a good understanding of stakeholders and the institution’s strengths and areas for improvement, and who challenge the management team about the institution’s performance. Effective councils also self-review or reflect on their performance on a regular basis.

Role of the Tertiary Education Commission in governance

The Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC’s) role is to monitor and evaluate the governance capability of TEI councils. It provides advice to the Minister on governance matters, including Ministerial appointments, and information and support to enhance governance capability.

Governance capabilityTop

Governance in the ITP sector

The 2010 governance reform of the ITPs, which focused on increasing the skills base of councils and reduced their size, was intended to enhance the governance capability of the ITPs and strengthen their leadership. The aim was improved institutional performance.

Evaluating governance changes

To evaluate the governance changes, the TEC initiated a three-phase research programme. An initial review was undertaken in 2011 to evaluate the implementation and transition of the reconstituted councils and any immediate short-term outcomes. That review found the governance changes had stimulated a positive shift in the effectiveness of councils; the evaluation report was published on the TEC website and can be found at

A second phase, to assess the medium-term outcomes, is taking place in 2013 and seeks to establish whether the council structure change is contributing to improved institutional performance.

Cross-council appointments

Changes in the legislation relating to ITPs also facilitated cross-council appointments. This means a member of a polytechnic council can also be appointed as a member of another TEI council. The intention is to promote collaboration and cooperation across the sector. In 2012, Malcolm Inglis, Deputy Chair at the Universal College of Learning, was appointed Deputy Chair at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT). He is the sixth cross-council appointment made by the Minister.

Governance in the university and wānanga sectors

The Ministry of Education, as part of its policy advisory role, is engaged in providing advice to the Minister about potential changes to the governance arrangements of universities and wānanga. This includes consideration of whether university and wānanga would benefit from a reduction in council size and if legislative change is necessary.

Tertiary Education Commission’s role in supporting governance capability

All councils provide an induction for new members and take steps to ensure members are kept up to date with developments in the sector and with their institution’s response to those changes.

The TEC also provides information to help council members; information on the TEC website includes identifying and managing members’ conflicts of interest and the maximum fees payable to council members.

From time to time, the TEC also provides briefing sessions for council members. A session was held in Wellington in October 2012, which was hosted by Dr Russ Ballard at Massey University and chaired by Mr Graeme Nahkies, Chair of Waiariki Institute of Technology. The session was attended by over 50 council members who rated it as successful. Participants particularly valued the TEC update on investment planning and TEC’s role in monitoring performance, and the session on good governance.

Changes to council constitutions

From time to time, councils request amendments to their constitutions and these are put in place by agreement with the Minister. Changes may be needed to take account of legislation or, in the case of universities or wānanga, to amend the council’s representation. The TEC provides advice to the Minister on requests for constitutional change and, in 2012, requests for changes were received from three councils.

Council appointment activity for 2012Top

The TEC is responsible for helping the Minister manage council member appointment and reappointment processes. In 2012, the TEC developed a framework to help in the selection of candidates for Ministerial appointment, which provides criteria that reflect both the statutory functions of councils and the Minister’s priorities. Further information on the appointments process is available on the TEC website.

There are 113 Ministerial appointees across 28 councils. The number of councils was reduced by one in January 2012, with the introduction of a combined council for the Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) and Whitireia Community Polytechnic.

Each year, when the terms of office of Ministerial appointees expire, the Minister considers whether to reappoint or make new appointments. In doing so, the Minister takes into account the performance of the institution, the skills and experience represented on the council and, in the case of reappointments, the length of term served.

In 2012, eight new Ministerial appointments were made to five councils and the Minister reappointed 13 council members, a total of 21 appointments. There were 10 Ministerial appointees who either resigned or did not seek reappointment, and a vacancy was created on the council of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology when Ms Claudia Wysocki passed away in March 2012.

University council appointments

During 2012, six new Ministerial appointments were made to university councils: Sir Ralph Norris and Mr Andrew Ferrier were appointed to the University of Auckland council, Dr Royden Somerville and Mr Stephen Higgs were appointed to Otago University council and Ms Victoria Heine and Mr John Selby to the council of Victoria University of Wellington.

Two Ministerial appointees were reappointed to university councils for a further term: Mr Lex Henry was reappointed to the Auckland University of Technology council and Mr Ben Vanderkolk reappointed to Massey University council after a one-year term.

Polytechnic council appointments

During 2012, two new Ministerial appointments were made to polytechnic councils: Ms Gabrielle Hervey was appointed to Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and Mr Malcolm Inglis was appointed member and Deputy Chair of WITT.

Reappointments were made to the seven polytechnic councils, including five reappointments to the WelTec–Whitireia combined council. Five reappointments were as Chair or Deputy Chair.

Appointment of Chairs and Deputy Chairs

The following people were reappointed in 2012, with the exception of Mr Malcolm Inglis, who was a new appointment:


During 2012, no Ministerial appointments were made to the councils of the three wānanga.

Former Ministerial appointees

In April 2012, Mr Gordon Chesterman stepped down after a substantial contribution to the Waikato Institute of Technology council, which he had chaired for 12 years. Mr Craig McFarlane resigned as Deputy Chair at WITT and, in November 2012, Dr Alan Barker resigned as Deputy Chair at the Open Polytechnic and as Deputy Chair of the WelTec–Whitireia combined council.

Several Ministerial appointees to university councils came to the end of their terms of office: Mr Alec Hawke at the University of Auckland council, Mr Peter Schuyt at the University of Waikato council and Ms Kereyn Smith and Dr James Every-Palmer from the University of Otago council. Professor Sir Ngatata Love resigned from Massey University council.

Robin Hapi, Chair/Te Amokapua of Te Wānanga o Raukawa, resigned as a Ministerial appointee so he could take up the nomination of Ngā Purutanga Mauri. Michelle Hippolite also resigned her Ministerial appointment to that council late in 2012.

Diversity in governance

The benefits of diversity in board and council appointments is well documented and widely accepted internationally and reflected in the Government’s commitment to increase diversity in leadership roles. To assess progress against the Government’s priorities for board participation, the TEC monitors the demographics of councils and, in relation to gender representativeness, reports annually to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

The position at December 2012 was that 35 percent of all appointees to TEI councils were women. While this is a shortfall against the aim of increasing women’s participation in state sector boards and committees to 45 percent by 2014, there will be further opportunities to improve the position by the deadline.

In relation to polytechnic councils, women’s participation is 37 percent as shown in table 2, with 50 out 136 appointees being women.

Table 2: Demographic breakdown of the 17 polytechnic councils, both Ministerial and non-Ministerial appointees, as at December 2012
Ethnicity Female Male Total
European or other 26% (36) 52% (70) 78% (106)
Māori 10% (13) 10% (14) 20% (27)
Pasifika 1% (1) 1% (2) 2% (3)
Total 37% (50) 63% (86) 100% (136)