Staff, students and the local community must be given a leading role in a new Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) project to look at the future of Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said.
Launched this week, the project will look at the financial viability of ITPs and what changes can be made to ensure the sector’s long-term sustainability. But when making the announcement the TEC did not appear to see any role for teachers and learners.
Labour has promised to give staff and students a much greater say in the running of their institutions. However, earlier in the week Tim Fowler, chief executive of the TEC, prompted fears they could be side-lined again, saying that the project would bring together only ITP bosses and government agencies.
Excluding the people most affected by decisions about the future of the sector would be a mistake, the TEU warned.
“Staff and students know the learning needs of their local area better than anyone else, so they must be given a much greater say in discussions about how their places of work and study are run,” Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU), said.
Consulting with staff and students once a proposal has been worked through by government and institution bosses will not be good enough, Grey said.
“Our members and the students they support day-in-day-out need to be involved right from the start. The TEC needs to come forward with a plan for how staff, students and the local community will be empowered to decide their future,” Grey said.
The TEU has consistently warned about the consequences of underfunding ITPs and is seeking a meeting with Mr. Fowler before Christmas.
Radio New Zealand reported that ITP bosses were also due to meet with Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, on Monday to tell him that institutions are under huge pressure after years of National underfunding.
Sandra Grey told RNZ the problems exist right across the sector.
“We are seeing deficit budgets or financial results where some of these institutions are making multi-million-dollar losses because they just don’t have the funding to run their core service, which is education,” she said.
The TEU is calling on institutions across the country to revisit planned staff and course cuts in light of this week’s fees-free announcement.
Failure to do so could put institutions on the back foot in terms of their ability to deliver to new domestic students. It could also make it much harder for the new education minister, Chris Hipkins, to deliver his own priorities for the sector.