There will be fewer polytechnics, Minister says

Posted By TEU on Aug 10, 2018 |

Tertiary Update – Vol 21 No 15

In an interview on The Nation on Saturday morning, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he expected there to be fewer polytechnics once the Tertiary Education Commission’s ITP Roadmap project and the Ministry of Education’s vocational education and training review concluded.

Over the course of the interview, Chris Hipkins was pressed on a range of issues. Towards the end of the interview, the Minister said that stabilising participation numbers in polytechnics would not be enough to safeguard the sector.

Responding to a question about whether he will close or merge polytechnics, the Minister said that he expected there to be fewer polytechnics in future. He also said the Government was expecting to have to inject more money into the sector over the next 18 months – a period that, interestingly, takes us into an election year.

The Minister has made similar statements before but this was the strongest signal yet that he intends to consolidate polytechnics. It is likely that the media will focus on the overall number of polytechnics. What they are less likely to address are some of the issues associated with a reorganisation of the sector, including the possible consolidation of the curriculum and back office functions.

Following on from the Education Conversation is crucial the sector comes together to discuss these issues as a failure to get them right could have an impact on what the tertiary education sector is like as a place of work and study.

Part of this will be about learning the lessons of previous mergers. In today’s Tertiary Update, a staff member at the Ara Institute of Canterbury shares their experience from the recent merger of Aoraki Polytechnic and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.

If mergers are looking likely, then we need to hear more of these stories and learn the lessons they teach us about what we should and should not do in future. Repeating the mistakes of the last National Government would be a disaster.

From the interview, it is clear that Chris Hipkins needs to do more to ensure the public understands why the polytechnic sector matters so much. He did make a connection between tertiary education and the teaching profession, but he needs to go further in talking about how the sector underpins everything his government wants to achieve.

This is important as tertiary education is shaping up to be an important issue in the next election – fees free is highly likely to feature, but so too is the future of polytechnics, particularly for MPs in areas where institutions may close or merge.

It is feasible to think that mergers (and possible closures) are going to start happening in the run up to the next election. Given the critical role these institutions play in their communities, the Minister will need to take into account the potential electoral impact.

One possible strategy might be to complete the work before the election. If the government changes in 2020, leaving a half-finished job for a National-led Government to complete could be disastrous.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Hey Stuart, we all have a right to debate our future
  2. Learning the lessons of past ITP mergers
  3. Funding is the elephant in the room
  4. Students and staff need a stronger voice
  5. Our links to the community must not be lost

Other news

The Tertiary Education Commission has recorded a short video explaining what the ITP Roadmap project is all about – YouTube

The Tertiary Education Commission has launched a survey to ask staff about their experiences of working in an institute of technology or polytechnic – SurveyMonkey

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that a new micro-credentials system will be rolled out from the end of August 2018 – Beehive

Professor Daniel Brown from the Victoria University of Wellington makesa case for the humanities being central to finding new solutions to complex issues – Newsroom

A National Research Charter is being developed by Universities New Zealand, Science New Zealand, the Independent Research Association of New Zealand, the Health Research Council, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Royal Society Te Apārangi – Royal Society

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has told Workforce Development Ltd to do extra moderation work in literacy, numeracy and early childhood education – NZQA

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