Unitec bailout points to the need for urgent change

Posted By TEU on Jul 12, 2018 | 4 comments

Tertiary Update – Vol 21 No 13

Unitec’s likely $50 million bailout, and the proposed appointment of a commissioner to replace its Council, teaches us two important lessons, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said.

The first of these lessons is that the policies of the last National Government are still being felt across the tertiary sector and are placing many of our public institutions in peril. The second lesson it teaches us is that previous managers at Unitec failed their students, staff and local community.

Responding to the Minister’s announcement, the TEU said the proposed dissolution of the Council and appointment of a commissioner to run the institution temporarily was, regrettably, a necessary step to ensure future generations can continue to access potentially life-changing learning opportunities at Unitec.

The Government’s decision to bailout the institution was also a welcome sign of Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ ongoing commitment to high-quality education at all levels and in all communities, the TEU said.

Meeting with the Minister earlier this week, Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, handed him a letter on behalf of some of the staff working at Unitec. In the letter, staff explain how difficult it was to see the Minister having to bailout their institution. They said his intervention was the culmination of four years during which they have struggled under the weight of poor decisions made by the Council and former Executive Leadership Team.

Nevertheless, union members welcomed the Minister’s support and thanked him for taking the bold decision to propose the appointment of a Commissioner and the provision of additional public funds to guide the institution through a difficult period. The letter also shares some thoughts on why the Minister made the right decision – and why their colleagues and students are deserving of the Government’s support.

Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said:

“It speaks volumes about what the last National Government did to our sector that our current Education Minister has had to step to clear up the mess. He has been taking some great steps towards long-term change for our sector, and I only hope that he is not deterred from the important work ahead. In many ways, the action he has taken should affirm his decision to change the way our sector is funded, and his work to push for a broader systemic change that will prevent decisions like this having to be made in future.

“National is responsible for laying the ground for many of the terrible decisions Unitec management have made over the years. Of course, previous managers and council both need to take responsibility for what they have done to undermine students’ learning – and for the council to need replacing by a commissioner. But National’s policy of forcing the sector to compete with itself, and to put profits above students, has led to managers prioritising the balance sheet of the institution over and above its core obligation to teach future generations the skills our nation will depend on. This needs to change and today’s announcement shows exactly why.”

Students and staff at Unitec have shown an enormous amount of strength to continue their learning and teaching in the face of a litany of poor management decisions. It is their dedication and commitment to education that has keep Unitec going – and it is their skill, time and energy that will ensure a sustainable future for the institution.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. We need to talk about Stuart McCutcheon
  2. If we were you, Education Minister, this is how we’d do it
  3. Working with government and community to keep tertiary education local
  4. Campaign to eliminate family and sexual violence in Pasifika communities
  5. Report exposes the reality of tertiary students’ mental health

Other news

The Tertiary Education Commission has released its projected financial outcomes for the institutes of technology and polytechnic sector, 2018-2022 – TEC

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is consultation on a 2 percent Annual Maximum Fee Movement for 2019 – Beehive

The Universal College of Learning is launching a wellbeing strategy for staff – Voxy

The director of an unregistered Private Training Establishment pleaded guilty to 33 charges for illegally enrolling international students – Stuff

Forest Protection Services has partnered with NorthTec on a new forestry training scheme – NZ Herald

The University of Auckland has launched a new Graduate School of Engineering – UoA

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