Evaluation of changes to governance

In 2009, the Education Act 1989 was amended to strengthen the governance of institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs); the changes that came into effect on 1 May 2010 introduced 57 new appointments, 10 of whom were new council Chair positions. The TEC then developed an evaluation framework to better understand the impact of the changes, with a number of phases to assess progress and outcomes over time.

First phase of evaluation

With a focus on the implementation issues and short-term impacts, the TEC conducted the first phase of the evaluation relatively quickly after the changes came into effect. This phase involved interviews with 19 ITP council Chairs and 12 ITP senior executive team members in 2010, six months after the reconstitution of councils. Overall, the evaluation found that, in the view of the respondents, the changes had enhanced council operations.

Read the full report: Review of Governance Change: Evaluation of the implementation and short-term outcomes of the change report (Word, 1 Mb) 

Second phase of evaluation

The second phase of the evaluation is underway to assess the impact of council structural change on institutional performance. It involves:

  • a structured interview of each ITP council Chair (now completed – see key findings below)
  • an in-depth focus on areas of good governance practice in a small sample of ITPs (based on the findings from the interviews).

Key findings from interviews

The following are the key findings from the interviews with 17 Chairs of ITP councils.

  • Smaller council size enabling strategic leadership
    A consistent message from ITP council Chairs was that the reduced council size has significantly improved their council’s ability to provide effective leadership by increasing the council’s focus on strategic issues.
  • Skills-based councils seen as more effective
    Moving from a representative model to a skills-based model was also beneficial. In the view of council Chairs, making appointments based on skills, rather than representation, enabled more effective strategic discussion.
  • Collaboration and cooperation across the sector
    Some ITP council Chairs described how the shift to smaller skills-based councils had fostered an environment for increased collaboration and cooperation across the sector.
  • Strengthening performance
    Stronger strategic leadership has resulted in a number of initiatives that council Chairs cited as improvements to organisational performance.
  • Mechanisms to ensure stakeholder-relevant provision
    Council Chairs identified that the move away from representative councils had led to a different approach to stakeholder engagement, to ensure different stakeholder’s views were brought to the council table. Different models, including student and staff committees and student survey results, were emerging across the sector to enable staff and student voices to be heard effectively at the council table. In some cases, this was an iterative process, with councils actively reflecting on the most effective way to gain the views of students and staff.
  • Roles and responsibilities of council and management
    As indicated in the first phase of the evaluation, the council reforms helped to clarify roles and responsibilities between council and management, with the functions of council members set out in the legislation. Three years on, the interviews provided examples of an effective management–council interface aligned to the policy intent of the council, along with examples of effective strategic leadership.

Next steps

Council Chairs commented on the challenge in identifying a direct link between the council reforms and improved institutional performance as many factors needed to be taken into account.

The TEC intends to undertake further work to gain a better understanding of the impact of the governance reforms on improved institutional performance, and the next stage of the TEC’s evaluation focuses on initiatives at a small sample of ITPs.

The extent of the work required is being scoped and the number of studies undertaken will be determined by the resources available. Depending on the specific examples chosen, this could include site visits and interviews with council members, senior management team members, and ITP staff and students. Additional stakeholders could also be interviewed including employers, iwi and Pasifika community groups.

If you have any questions, please contact governance@tec.govt.nz

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  • Last changed: 7 August 2014