Election key to university hopes

September 16, 2005

A would-be university in New Zealand hopes that a change of government after tomorrow's general election may help its case, after its application was turned down last month.

In August, more than six years after it first applied to become a university, Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland was informed its request had been denied.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard said a review panel had found that two of the five criteria had not been met. Unitec was not sufficiently concerned with ad-vanced learning, mainly because of a relatively high number of foreign students on English-language courses. It had too few staff with doctorates and too few were active researchers, he added.

Nor did Unitec meet the criteria of being a repository of knowledge, taking a role as critic and conscience of society, and close interdependence of teaching and research. The review panel included Chris Haslam, deputy director of the UK's Quality Assurance Agency and several Australian members.

Unitec chief executive John Webster vowed to seek a judicial review of the decision. In July, the High Court found that the Government had breached the Bill of Rights Act and natural justice by suspending Unitec's application in 2000, and then delaying its consideration. This suggested that the minister had not been able to maintain "a genuinely open mind", he said.

Mr Webster now says that different options are being considered, depending on the election outcome. The centrist New Zea-land First party, which may hold the balance of power, has strongly supported awarding Unitec university status.

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