Polytechnics face catch-22

Posted By TEU on Jul 9, 2009 |


Tertiary Update Volume 12 Number 21

TEU president Tom Ryan says last week’s parliamentary debate on workforce up-skilling shows that the minister of education Anne Tolley is waiting too long to take productive action on this crucial matter.

Mrs Tolley was challenged by Labour’s tertiary education spokesperson, Maryan Street, over the minister’s claim that difficult economic times had compelled her to choose getting young people into vocational polytechnic courses over funding adult and community education.

Why then, Ms Street asked, did Mrs Tolley refuse to extend the caps on tertiary student numbers? “Where does she expect the 6,000 to 8,000 students who are likely to be turned away from polytechs over the next year to go to for their upskilling opportunities?”

The minister defended the government’s lack of funding for new students by saying that people should not rely on polytechnic EFTS projections that are based on the official April enrolment figures.

“They have proved to be unreliable in the past, sometimes quite spectacularly so. As I said to the member yesterday, this Government is watching the enrolments in tertiary institutions very carefully.”

Dr Ryan says Mrs Tolley is putting polytechnic staff in a difficult catch-22:

“She tells state sector employers they can deliver cost-of-living pay rises only if they can show that they are getting increased productivity from their employees. So how are polytechnics supposed to show an increase in productivity? The easiest way would be to take on more of the many students who desperately want new skills to help them face the recession. But the minister has refused to fund polytechnics to take on any more students beyond the 103 percent EFTS cap that many are already pushing up against. So it’s impossible for them to demonstrate the increase in productivity that would allow them to have a salary increase that keeps pace with inflation.”

“Or maybe”, suggested Ryan, “rather than take on additional students, polytechnic staff should just ‘add value’ to current students’ learning experiences. So, for example, as well as getting the skills in horticulture or hairdressing they want and pay for, students also could get a free course in Moroccan cooking!”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. ITPs stopwork to consider bargaining
  2. Many more students
  3. President slams ‘so-called NZ Higher Education Summit’
  4. Otago University doubles paid parental leave
  5. Education International stresses rights of academics
  6. Thirteen out of 20 top universities misspell ‘university’ on website

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email: http://scr.im/stephenday

Thanks to robwest @ Flickr for the photo

TEU Tertiary Update is published weekly on Thursdays and distributed freely to members of the Tertiary Education Union and others. You can subscribe to Tertiary Update by email or feed reader. Back issues are available on the TEU website. Direct inquiries should be made to Stephen Day, email: http://scr.im/stephenday

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