UCOL’s proposal to cut 22 courses in the wake of losing public funding for level 1-2 foundation level courses has caused widespread concern in the Whanganui and Manawatu regions.
The government’s competitive tendering process means UCOL has lost over a million dollars for hundreds of level 1-2 foundation level students, and intends to make dozens of staff in Palmerston North and Whanganui redundant.
The mayor of Whanganui Annette Main expressed her disappointment that cuts in Government funding to UCOL are likely to see reductions in staff numbers and the loss of existing hairdressing and barber courses.
“At a time when we are working hard on our reputation as a desirable place to be, this makes that more of a challenge.”
Careers and Transition Education Association Manawatu chairwoman Judy Swainson told the Manawatu Standard the cuts would limit young school leavers’ options.
“It’s the [NCEA] level one kids who are disenchanted and wanting to leave school at 16 – that there won’t be anything for them to go to is the tragedy of this,” she said.
“If they are wanting to get on a course at UCOL, it’s not going to be there for them. They will be going to the supermarkets. At-risk kids at year 11 are now even more at risk.”
Palmerston North mayor Jono Naylor told the Standard institutions like UCOL made the city a student destination, and fewer training opportunities could result in an exodus to other centres.
“I think that would be undesirable for us locally but also for our young people. Palmerston North is a great place to study because living costs are a lot lower than in Wellington, so it makes sense to strengthen tertiary institutions in Palmerston North.”
Whanganui’s local National Party MP Chester Borrows told the Wanganui Chronicle a loss of positions at UCOL was disappointing, but it was important for all government agencies to work as efficiently as possible.
A group of Wanganui district councillors has now called for an extraordinary council meeting in the wake of the UCOL decision.
Following this widespread public concern the minister of tertiary education Steven Joyce debated the funding cuts with TEU national president Sandra Grey on National Radio’s Nine to Noon Show. The two discussed the government’s strategy to reward its funding to the providers that offered their courses for the lowest price and what that meant for the quality and stability of education.