National’s legacy forcing tertiary sector down the wrong track

Posted By TEU on Nov 16, 2017 | 2 comments

Tertiary Update – Vol 20 No 35

Policies introduced by the previous National government are forcing the  tertiary education sector down a track that urgently needs redirecting by the new Minister, the Tertiary Education Union said.

Tertiary education is a public good that allows people to develop skills, learn trades, and create knowledge which helps families, communities and the economy. However, despite the change of government, the impact of many years of underfunding by National is still being felt across the sector.

A growing number of tertiary education institutions across the country are restructuring how courses and services are delivered, with many citing funding uncertainty as one of the primary reasons for the planned changes.

The sector is at a crossroads, and staff and students are concerned that unless a different path is taken the scale of what’s planned could make it harder for the new government to rebuild an accessible, fully-funded public tertiary education system that supports staff and student well-being.

Management’s plans to restructure regional institutions like NorthTec, which includes closing its Rawene and Kerikeri campuses, cutting courses and losing up to 50 jobs, will also have huge implications for the government’s regional development agenda.

The same goes for plans to restructure the Open Polytechnic, Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia, with cuts and changes to courses, student support services and jobs at each institution likely.

Eleven other universities, polytechnics and wānanga have also notified staff of their intention to restructure parts of the institution in recent weeks.

Underfunding is one of the main drivers for the restructures which, if they go ahead, could make it harder for the new Minister to uphold his view that government has a

responsibility to provide for a network of public tertiary education institutions throughout the country.

It is National’s policy that has driven the sector to this point, but there is a different path forward and that means the new Minister signalling a break with the flawed approach of the past.

Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said the TEU has been pleased with the start Chris Hipkins has made in his new role as Education Minister.

“We have been delighted with the start the new Minister has made, not least that he has listened to our members and moved so quickly to abandon National’s last ditch attempt before the election to redirect public funds towards for-profit providers,” Grey said.

However, she said that staff and students need to see that the policies of the last government are no longer determining the future direction of the sector.

“Now is the time for the new Minister to sit down with every institution currently planning course and jobs cuts to develop a plan for the future. That means taking steps to immediately steer the sector down a path that will have us heading towards a publicly funded and publicly controlled tertiary education sector,” Grey said.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. More support needed for te reo Māori learners
  2. Plans to close Lincoln uni’s bookshop
  3. One year to make equal pay law a reality

Other news

Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, Nicola Gaston, discusses the University of Melbourne’s decision to accept only applicants from qualified women for a vacancy as a mathematics lecturer – RNZ

The Manukau Institute of Technology has announced that Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre will offer level 1 and 2 courses in Chainsaws, Fencing and Tractors at its Auckland campus from next year – Voxy

The University of Otago has announced that Dr Royden Somerville QC will take over as Chancellor in January – Otago

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