Opinion // 21.04.2015 // Curated by Ed.

Giving students front row seats

How can we keep our talented students in the country? Have we got the right education and public policy frameworks in place to create a better New Zealand going forward?

For Wendy McGuiness, CEO of The McGuiness Institute; an independent non-partisan think-tank organisation, these sorts of issues are very dear to her heart and mind.

Wendy from LongtermNZ 1

Today Wendy is working with a diverse team of graduates, academics and experienced professionals who have the research, and the grit, to come up with a new plan for the future of tertiary education  They’re calling for better communication and a clearer direction to ensure students are learning the right skills and plans are in place to keep them on home turf.

For example, while some see New Zealand’s small size as an impediment to progress, Wendy’s team believe it can be an advantage. By strategically aligning tertiary institutes, parliament, employers and community, we can move towards a ‘University of New Zealand” where students experience shared learning environments.

Wendy says our size means we can be more flexible, nimble and solve problems more quickly – and involve students in the process. It’s about getting students engaged, sharing their views, listening to different perspectives and joining in with group conversations.

“We believe in bringing students from the back seat to the front seat,” she says.

And she’s not the only one! There are people all over the country who see students as one of the key drivers of economic success; instrumental in New Zealand thriving and even surviving.

Talking with Wendy you immediately resonate with her passion and vision for improvement. She’s focused on creating long-term, sustainable outcomes and that requires beginning with the end in mind.   She’s all about providing clear direction and developing a plan of attack utilising a “think tank” approach, which involves getting students involved along with other decision makers.

At least once a year they facilitate workshops for around 30 students, bringing them together with The Treasury. Having close ties with The Treasury, the students can interact, connect and work on real life challenges, such as the Living Standards Framework for NZ, to assess and examine frameworks as well as explore and present new ideas to the members. It’s an opportunity for students to use their voice to influence policy change.

If you want to read some of the Institutes’ forward-thinking research papers on education in New Zealand, check out this website.