“Leadership and strategic advice are provided by our Executive Team which is also responsible for the performance and deliverables of the organisation.” TEC website*.
The late Paul the Octopus would have offered sharp odds on yet another restructure at the Tertiary Education Commission. It seems to have been in a state of permanent restructure since its inception less than 8 years ago, with a succession of CEOs from home and abroad.
Staff at the TEC are “shocked by the size of the cuts” in the current proposal to cut more than 100 jobs at the agency, says PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott. Others may be simply shocked by the size of the organisation in the first place and its apparent lack of leadership and strategic direction, though having six different ministers hasn’t helped.
The last TEC staff cuts were made only 18 months ago. The current re-structuring proposal, which also includes the creation of 39 new positions, would mean about 80 of the present 300 jobs at TEC would be lost, although about 40 of the threatened jobs are currently vacant.
The proposal to cut jobs and reduce the number of internal directorates from 7 to 3 is included in a review by consultants Deloitte which says the agency, which administers funding for tertiary education, is hindered by its structure and lacks strategic capability.
Touché Deloitte for the cutting comments. If the TEC hasn’t got a clear vision and strategy and an appropriate structure, what credibility has it got to annually allocate $3 billion funding to the diverse mix of 800 public and provide tertiary education providers that must, perforce, deal with it for funding?
All forms of post-secondary school education and training come within the TEC’s tentacular reach. These range from literacy and numeracy education to academic study, Modern Apprenticeships and work-related training through to doctoral research.* Faced with this variety it needs to openly engage with tertiary organisations in their own localities, not hide in Fortress Wellington.
When I met with a former TEC CEO, who had been imported from the UK as a temporary hatchet despatcher, and encouraged her to get involved in the first of the annual series of Education Leaders Forums*, she informed me that she didn’t feel the need to network with education leaders in New Zealand: she “had a perfectly good network in the UK”. As an interested outsider I don’t see much evidence of the TEC being any more open today.
We are in a time of huge changes in our global and local environments, with disruptive new forms of communication and fast evolving new ways of learning and working. To survive as a nation we must adapt and innovate. An innovative nation requires an innovative education system. This requires innovative education leaders at all levels who have enough autonomy to try new ways of learning and working and who make the time to engage with their colleagues in cultivating their own learning community.
However education leaders are constricted by an ever increasing number of bureaucratic hoops through which to jump. At the tertiary level the TEC has a monopoly in hoop manufacture. Whatever the no doubt laudable intentions, an excess of hoop jumping saps energy and skews focus.
Confronted with unprecedented change we can’t find much guidance by looking to the past. We have to actively engage with the messy emerging future with open minds. The overly bureaucratic thrust of the TEC is counter productive in that it reduces academic autonomy, diversity, experimentation and innovation. Above all it breeds cynicism and switches off the very people whose energies and abilities must be fully engaged to find a way through.
Deloitte may not give much useful guidance here. Bean counters are not much help with the human dimensions of growing living organisations and cultivating new knowledge.
Learning communities are not primarily earning organisations, though at the tertiary level the generation of wealth through innovation is an important by-product of some research and development activities, in partnership with business organisations. At all levels of education the development of new knowledge and key skills for a new age are the imperatives and the new national curriculum seems to be positive in this regard.
At the TEC leadership and strategy need to begin at home, starting with some hard questions about the organisation’s raison d’etre and involving a process which fully engages staff and representatives of all the other players.
Can its managers step up to the leadership plate? With a new CEO in the offing there is another opportunity.
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http://www.smartnet.co.nz/events/ELF/2010.htm Education Leaders Forum