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The Impact of the State on Institutional Differentiation in New Zealand

Institutional Management in Higher Education

The New Zealand higher education system is a small but complex arrangement of colleges, polytechnics, institutes of technology and universities that on the surface appears to display admirable diversity for a system that serves around four million people. However, while major legislation introduced in 1990 formalised four distinct types of public tertiary institution, in practical terms, the last 12 years have been characterised by the progressive convergence of institutional types.

Through a brief historical review and the analysis of institutional mission and values statements, and published performance indicators, this article explores and illustrates different perspectives of diversity amongst New Zealand higher education institutions which have converged over the last 12 years. This convergence occurred during an extended period of deregulation in which the market has acted as a surrogate for overt government policy in shaping the direction of the system and the institutions within it. Even recent formal government policy supporting the development of strong and distinct institutional identities and greater differentiation amongst tertiary institutions has been thwarted by the same government’s intervention to prevent system change by limiting the number of universities in the country.

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