Re-engineering New Zealand tertiary education
A tertiary education system is dynamic and responds to influence. The problem is that it is difficult to anticipate the behaviour of such a complex system. There are few, if any system models available, and not many methodologies to generate such models. The hypothesis in this paper was that a system model could be developed to qualitatively explain the observed behaviour of the NZ tertiary education system. This is worth doing as such a model may be able to (i) advance understanding of existing system behaviour, and (ii) help decision-makers anticipate the dynamic response of the system. This paper applied dynamic process analysis (DPA) to produce a diagrammatic and hierarchical system model of qualitative aspects NZ tertiary education. Results include sub-models for how an international student selects a destination country, selection of institution, the study process, management of a teaching section (including teaching quality, research and financial viability), the setting and implementation of strategies by senior management, and marketing activities. The dominant failures of the NZ education system were observed to be destructive competition and the financial insecurity of tertiary education institutions (TEIs). These are consequences of the state distributing its entire teaching subsidy according to the student enrolment, with no constraints on where or what the student studies, and no other continuing sources of state funding being available for capital or special needs. Furthermore, institutions have transformed themselves to meet the operating environment with proliferation of programmes, including expansion into academic areas formerly reserved for other institutions. Since the student’s enrolment decision carries the entire subsidy, institutions have had to focus on student needs before other priorities of the national good. The government intends to change the behaviour of tertiary institutions and the mechanisms it intends using are critically reviewed. It is readily acknowledged that this model is a construct of the analysts and is therefore subjective. It nonetheless has the ability to provide a plausible explanation of a complex and dynamic environment in which there is a lack of system models. The model has the potential to help other organisations better understand and respond to their environment.