Press release 18 September 2018
Future for two ITPs lies in commissioner connecting to staff and
Staff at Whitireia and Weltec polytechnics are resigned to the fact that
the Minister of Education will be appointing a commissioner to replace the
council overseeing both institutions but they are shocked by the poor
financial positions of the institutions.
In announcing his decision to appoint a commissioner Minister Chris Hipkins noted: “Whitireia is in
extreme financial difficulty. If the Government hadn’t provided financial
support of $15 million, it would have to close its doors this month. While
WelTec’s financial position is stronger than Whitireia’s, it is also
operating in deficit, experiencing lower than expected enrolments and needs
to borrow to meet its financial commitments to keep running this year.”
TEU national president, Sandra Grey, said staff at both Whitireia and
Weltec feel that they have been put through years of course and staff cuts,
changes to roles, and constantly changing expectations.
“Despite the relentless change there are still major financial problems.
Staff feel there is no vision for where the two polytechs are heading. The
only way to turn this situation around is to fully involve staff, students,
and communities in the decision-making process.”
“We have had a productive conversation with the Chief Executive about
ensuring that staff are involved in setting a vision for the institutions.
We are now preparing thoughts to share with the commissioner.”
The concerns of staff centre on the rising numbers of managers at the two
polytechnics, the feeling of a lack of academic input into many decisions,
the reduction of student support roles, and the lack of connection Between
the Polytechs and their communities.
“We urge the CE, commissioner, and other leaders to take seriously staff
expertise when looking to turn around the difficulties faced by the two
As one TEU member put it, the commissioner, senior leaders, and government
need to “promote a climate which is teacher-centred not “business”
Our Polytechs are based on good teaching for students in diverse
communities. Neither teachers, students nor communities are at the centre
of decisions. TEU members urge a commissioner to bring this focus back.
Many of the issues faced by Whitireia and Weltec have their genesis in
decisions of the last National government to squeeze the funding of the
tertiary education sector and drive for institutions to be ‘business-like’,
“Polytechs are core public institutions in many New Zealand
communities, not businesses. We are pleased the Minister has again
reiterated his commitment that
top quality vocational training continues to be available at Whitireia
and WelTec and demonstrated this commitment by providing a $15 million
bailout to Whitireia.
But we need Chris Hipkins to continue to take actions which ensure that
our polytechnics are funded in a way which ensures they can be the
heart of their communities and the heart of a vocational education
For TEU members this includes putting two staff and two students onto the
councils of polytechs and universities. The Minister was right when he said
“this Government is having to bail out to the tune of tens of millions of
dollars because of poor governance decisions by some of those very same
institutions. Would those decisions have been made had the staff and
students who actually have a direct interest in those institutions been
involved in the decision-making and if they had had a voice at the table—I
don’t think they necessarily would have.”