by David Clendon
The Government have opened up public submissions on their proposed changes to the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) for tertiary education.
The PBRF is a funding pool of around $250 million per year from the Government that goes towards tertiary education research. It is accessed by universities, ITPs, wananga and PTEs and is incentives-based, taking into account the ‘quality of researchers’, degree completions and external research income. It is also considered in accordance with government policy and the Tertiary Education Strategy.
The Government has been reviewing the current PBRF model and has now opened the review up for public feedback.
Submissions are open on the consultation document, which sets out the proposed changes the Government would like to make to the fund. Submissions are open until Friday 4th October, and can either be emailed to the review group at the Ministry of Education or submitted via an online questionnaire.
The PBRF, since its establishment in 2002, has been a burden on the tertiary education sector in New Zealand. In the past I’ve described the PBRF as a millstone around the neck of our education sector. The current fund rewards academics who do research that can get published in international journals, while punishing academics who undertake practical, grounded research that informs practice in New Zealand. Academics are left to struggle with the demand of the PBRF – to do more research, to publish or perish. At the same time, they are also experiencing increased teaching loads.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, in announcing the review, said the Government was looking to “assess their effectiveness in delivering skills and innovation, producing excellent research, and encouraging the utilisation and commercialisation of research.”
In response, Tertiary Education Union (TEU) national president Lesley Francey has cautioned the Government against the further ‘commercialisation’ of research:
“It appears that the minister has lost sight of the ideal of higher education being the critic and conscience of society. This narrowing of the focus of research towards an emphasis on commercialisation could have huge implications for New Zealand society…”
This review represents a really important opportunity for the public to feed-in to tertiary education in this country and I’d encourage you all to take the time to submit. For more information on PBRF and the review, I’d suggest taking a look at comments from Jonathan Boston, one of the original architects of the PBRF, here and the work that the TEU has done on the PBRF here.