Council composition

The Education Act 1989 (the Act) specifies the parameters for membership of tertiary education institution (TEI) councils. The details are noted in each institution’s statute or, in the case of universities and wānanga, described in the constitution of council and published in the New Zealand Gazette.

Arrangements for universities and wānanga differ from those for institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs).

Council composition for universities and wānanga

Section 171 of the Education Act 1989 provides that the councils of universities and wānanga consist of between eight and 12 members. Changes to university and wānanga governance in 2015 reduced the size of councils and removed representative requirements.

The constitution of a university or wānanga council has four essentials:

  • the name of the council
  • the date that the constitution came into effect
  • the number of council members
  • the maximum  number of terms that can be served (this includes terms served before the changes made in 2015).

If the council has 10, 11 or 12 members, the Minister appoints four of those members. If the council has eight or nine members, the Minister appoints three members (s171(1) of the Act).

The candidate’s skills and experience are the most important factors in the selection of council members. To be appointed, candidates must have relevant knowledge, skills and experience; be able to fulfil their individual duties; and, together with other members of the council, be capable of undertaking the council’s responsibilities (s171B).

The Act also specifies that council members should reflect, so far as is reasonably practicable, the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the communities the university or wānanga serves and the country’s gender balance, and at least one member of the council must be Māori. 

Council composition for institutes of technology and polytechnics

Section 222AA of the Act specifies that ITP councils have a total of eight members:

  • four members appointed by the Minister
  • four members appointed by the council itself, in accordance with the ITP’s own  statutes (rules).

The council must appoint as members people who, in the council’s opinion, have relevant knowledge, skills or experience and are likely to be able to fulfil their individual duties as members of the council and the functions, duties and responsibilities of the council. It is also desirable that the council should include Māori and, so far as possible, reflect the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the community it serves (s222AD).

The Minister is required to have regard to similar considerations when making his or her appointments to the council.  

Term of appointment

The Act provides that all council members, both appointed by the Minister and the council, are appointed for no more than four years (s173). This enables the terms of office to be staggered, so that the terms of office do not expire at the same time. Members may be reappointed for a further term.

If the term of office of a council member expires before a successor is appointed, the member continues in office until reappointed or replaced.



  • Last changed: 17 May 2016
  • Last verified: 17 May 2016