TEC prompt fears staff will be excluded from project on future of ITPs

Posted By TEU on Dec 8, 2017 | 1 comment

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.

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  1. It takes more than a change of government to effect change within each ITP. The patterns of thought and the values embedded in the ways we are expected to do tertiary education are still deeply neoliberal and framed within the business model ethos. Chris Hipkins needs to consider new ways of assembling policy and effecting practice and one of them is to reconsider the TEC itself. If we follow the old think of vested interests, and exclude the professional voices of tertiary teachers through their unions which are also their professional bodies, then the collective knowledge and lived daily experiences which need to guide better use of our resources ( ie, us) will be ignored. Lets take a big breath, see how potential students respond, and work alongside each other together to encourage diversity and inclusion. If you ask existing students they will say “But what’s in it for us? How can we get paid work, after gaining our marketable skills? ” Perhaps encouraging full employment is another strategy that needs to run alongside these policies. Perhaps paid workplace learning, as part of tertiary study, can become commonplace, as everyone benefits- we as tertiary teachers, students as learners, employers as the work contributes to their viability, and the clients who benefit from interacting with new and fresh approaches. Given that our students are not only straight out of school, but are people with workforce experience, have families, from a range of cultural backgrounds and are highly motivated, everyone can have an empowering educational experience.

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