Critiquing the Tertiary Education Commission's Role in New Zealand's Tertiary Education System: Policy, practice and panopticism

Craig Ashcroft and Karen Nairn
Vol 23, Number 2, p.113
This paper uses Bentham's panopticon, as proposed by Foucault (1977), as a metaphorical representation of the role of the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) established in New Zealand in 2003, and considers its likely impact in the tertiary education sector. The argument conceptualises a process of ‘managerial panopticism’ to suggest that the reforms initiated by the 1999 Labour/Alliance Coalition Government, and imposed upon New Zealand's tertiary education sector by the TEC, employ techniques of coercion that provide individuals with a sense of opportunism when and if they comply. Furthermore, this sense of opportunism is actually an illusion used by the government to stifle any possible resistance to the reform process. We propose that if academics want to access opportunities for a career that provides secure employment, a regular income and continued scholarly esteem, they are more likely to comply with, rather than oppose, the policies administered by the Tertiary Education Commission.