A private, for-profit provider is set to open in Manukau next month and will compete directly with the local, publicly-owned polytechnic.
Aspire2 will open for business in August and aims to profit from around 500 construction, allied and engineering students each year.
Its new campus will be on the doorstep of the local public provider, Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), which already offers a wide range of trade qualifications.
Under a new law National wants to pass before the election, Aspire2 would be entitled to receive the exact same public funding as MIT for any equivalent course it teaches.
The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) has warned repeatedly that the law would encourage for-profit providers to move into potentially profitable areas to compete with public institutions.
Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said: “Public institutions like MIT have long-lasting relationships with their local communities. They offer facilities to community groups and organisations, as well as build important relationships with iwi/hapū, local businesses and service organisations.
“Any commitment Aspire2 says it has to forging these kinds of community connections is always going to be compromised by the extent to which it can guarantee a satisfactory return to its owners.
“Aspire2 may well say it has other objectives, but these will all be subservient to its primary aim of making a profit. Forcing public institutions like MIT to compete with private providers will not drive improvements in quality. It’s about time we put students before profit.”