TEC gets more complaints about 'dumbing down'

Tertiary Education Minister Paul Goldsmith says education authorities have received 11 new complaints after the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) chief executive gave his mobile phone number over RNZ inviting whistleblowers to speak out on the dumbing down of courses to secure funding.

Tim Fowler supplied his personal number at the end of an interview with Kathryn Ryan on March 31, saying any listeners with concerns could ring him direct and would be treated confidentially.

RNZ had been examining allegations from the Tertiary Education Union that some staff at institutions felt under pressure to pass a higher percentage of students to ensure funding continued.

Fowler's organisation is the funder and monitors the conditions under which money is given. He said he believed all institutions would reject such accusations. However he revealed the TEC had received eight complaints it had referred to the NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA) or the AQA. Fowler said they were all pursued and followed up and closed off.

However as RNZ continued to receive texts and emails expressing concern, he said: "Pick up the phone and talk to me. We treat these things with absolute confidentiality and seriousness and for the sake of our system we think it is particularly important that we pursue those."

At the National Party northern convention at the weekend, Paul Goldsmith said: "I think they had 11 calls to the CEO who gave his cellphone number out to the public. All of these are being followed up quite intensively."

Goldsmith didn't say if the complaints were still with the TEC or had been passed to NZQA.

His comments came as he briefed National Party members on his new portfolio, succeeding Steven Joyce in Bill English's cabinet reshuffle late last year.

He defended the $4.5 billion international student education industry.

"This is a really important industry and my focus is on the areas that have the highest net benefits to New Zealand in terms of profits, and to maintain the integrity of the system," he said.