Associate Professor Stephen Marshall

By Associate Professor Stephen Marshall, Victoria University of Wellington

One of the TEC’s roles is to anticipate change and future-proof the tertiary education system. This will help ensure that we are getting the best value for learners, society and the economy from tertiary education. The Capability Framework is an important new tool to help the TEC and education providers deliver on this. The Capability Framework also ensures the system can grow and evolve effectively and efficiently.

What is the Capability Framework?

The Capability Framework is an online self-assessment tool that supports tertiary education organisations (TEOs) to better understand their capability as well as support their Investment Plan development. Over time, the tool will also help inform how the government invests to better support system capability.

What does the Capability Framework focus on?

The goal is to build on sector capability, in particular to be able to support the priorities and aspirations reflected in the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES). It does this by assessing the capability of TEOs across five focus areas: Governance; Stakeholder engagement; Infrastructure; Support for learners progressing through the system; and Support for staff.

What is meant by capability?

The Framework focuses on continuous improvement aimed at building organisational ability and resilience, especially in the context of changing and dynamic economic, social and educational environments. Implicit to all focus areas of the framework are:

  • the importance of sector resilience, agility and change in tertiary education as enablers of future success for New Zealand
  • leadership from the sector, operating as autonomous entities within a collaborative and coordinated system
  • the role of education as a social institution supporting economic growth and wellbeing
  • respect for the Treaty of Waitangi as well as the many cultures and communities in New Zealand, and
  • the operation of tertiary education as an integrated system, maximising the impact of public investment on the country.

How does the framework apply to the Adult and Community Education (ACE) sector?

The framework is applicable to all educators operating in all the various learning contexts of New Zealand society, including that served by community educators.

The framework’s focus areas are very relevant to the future of the ACE sector. It asks questions that will stimulate organisations to understand their capability and support planning, particularly in collaboration with others in the sector. This includes sector groups such as ACE Aotearoa and Ako Aotearoa, as well as the TEC.

Why was the Capability Framework developed?

The framework provides an overview of individual TEO capability that can be used by TEO staff, leaders, governance groups, and the TEC to inform ongoing investment priorities and decisions aimed at improving the health of the tertiary education system.

It is not an audit. However, the assessment process does help TEC engage with the sector and create a narrative that places the capability of organisations into a broader system context.

The framework has been designed so that the focus areas can be adapted over time to focus on changing priorities and to reflect the different needs of parts of the sector.

What does a healthy tertiary education system look like?

A healthy system is one which:

  • is valued for contributions to knowledge and impact on broader social, economic and political goals
  • has goals determined by internal and external stakeholders
  • balances the public and private purposes and benefits of tertiary education
  • balances individual institutional interests and autonomy with the functioning of the system as a whole
  • has diversity of provision to enable the system to respond effectively to new
  • has a student population that is broadly representative of society
  • has sufficient funding from a diverse range of sources, and
  • is regulated to support outcomes important for both external and internal stakeholders.

We see great benefit for the learner in delivering a more selfregulating system where incentives for good performance are clear. We think our work on the Capability Framework will help us to achieve this.

You can find more information about the framework on the TEC website:

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Summer Newsletter 2018.