In New Zealand we have 33 public tertiary educational institutions, comprising eight universities, 20 institutes of technology, and three wānanga (Māori centres of tertiary learning). Under the Education Act 1989, all of these institutions have the authority to award degrees recognised by the New Zealand National Qualifications Authority. While the breadth of tertiary provision is generally positive, the current system also causes some problems — problems that open licensing may be able to resolve.

The diverse tertiary sector combined with New Zealand’s widely distributed population has meant there is an extensive national network of institutions offering a core set of qualifications throughout the country. However, the historical funding model employed by the New Zealand government has encouraged competition between tertiary institutions. While this can be an incentive for providing high-quality educational services, it can also lead to unnecessary inefficiencies. Competition between institutions often means that teachers and researchers are forced to spend much of their time creating resources that already exist elsewhere in the educational system.

The current intellectual property models used by most New Zealand tertiary institutions further exacerbate inefficiencies, causing the production of unnecessary duplications of qualifications and materials. For instance, in 2012 there were 62 registered qualifications available in New Zealand intended for the education and training of tertiary teachers. It seems counterintuitive for so many variants of the same qualification to produce, from scratch, their own course materials, especially when teachers and researchers could be working in collaboration to create comprehensive and adaptable Open Educational Resources (OERs).

The adoption of OERs in New Zealand’s tertiary sector could provide an alternative to the duplication of course materials by competing qualifications. Generic and widespread resources created under an open licence would allow New Zealand institutions to collaborate together. Reusing and remixing resources across institutions can mean that high-quality learning materials are widely dispersed and accessible to the general population. The adoption of OER courses, or at least course materials for less specialised qualifications, would provide an excellent testing ground. This would allow for New Zealand’s tertiary education systems to explore the potential of open education as a mechanism for reducing internal costs and production inefficiencies.

Hunter Wilson-Burke is a third-year BA student at Victoria University studying Political Science and Philosophy. He is a former intern of Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, focusing on the use and adoption of open education in New Zealand’s educational institutions.

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