NZ court forces Gould to rethink

April 30, 1999


The powers of Waikato University vice-chancellor Bryan Gould have been curbed in a high court ruling that has been hailed as a landmark by New Zealand's Association of University Staff.

Late last month, the AUS won an injunction in the high court to stop proposals by Professor Gould that would restructure the university's seven schools into four. The judge ruled that the vice-chancellor and council had no power to implement the decision without that proposal having first been referred by the council to the academic board.

Neither Professor Gould nor the council would comment on their next steps, beyond saying they would be considering their options.

AUS president Jane Kelsey said the decision highlighted the tensions between the traditional concept of a university as a community of scholars and students and the new public-sector management ideology, as promoted in the government's white paper.

Ms Kelsey said the time had come to seek a definitive statement about the powers of the vice- chancellors.

"It is a clear message to vice-chancellors that the academic community cannot be excluded from decisions that affect the core nature and functions of universities, that vice-chancellors cannot assume an unfettered managerial prerogative and that councils must take more active responsibility as guardians of the university charter," she said.

Professor Gould said he was disappointed with aspects of the judgment and that the university would have to "consider all of its options, because of the implications for the university and the tertiary sector as a whole. In effect, it calls into question my right as vice-chancellor to put in place management structures to meet the needs of the university in a rapidly changing environment."

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