Chief Executive Chris Gosling and Commissioner Neil Barnes must take seriously and heed the views of staff and students affected by their proposal to merge Whitireia with WelTec, which includes closing the Kāpiti campus, and make the distinct local and regional needs of both a priority.
Both institutions have been through years of course and staff cuts, changes to roles, and constantly changing expectations. This had its origin in decisions made by the previous National-led government that squeezed funding to the tertiary sector and pushed for polytechnics to be run as if they were businesses via the competitive funding model, including the strategic partnership between WelTec and Whitireia.
TEU national president Sandra Grey said: “Our polytechnics are based on good teaching for students in diverse communities. Currently neither academic staff, nor students, nor communities are at the centre of decisions. TEU members urge the CE and the commissioner to bring this focus back. The concerns of staff include the rising numbers of managers in recent times, the feeling of a lack of academic input into many decisions, the reduction of student support roles, and the lack of connection between polytechnics and local communities.”
TEU national secretary Sharn Riggs said: “TEU members are disappointed with this proposed decision. It highlights how National’s competitive tertiary funding model is failing our smaller regional institutions such as Whitireia, which are built on community passion and drive.”
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins wrote to the TEU recently saying that he expects the CE and the commissioner to engage with staff and students, and that all the decisions should be informed by the work and recommendations of the ITP Roadmap 2020 Project. The CE and the commissioner must move now to involve staff and students in the decision-making process. Like the minister, the TEU expects them to work with staff and students to make the distinctive local and regional needs of both institutions a priority, and to preserve the distinct cultures of the
different campuses around teaching and student support,” said Sandra Grey.
“We are facing this significant challenge with professionalism, understanding that there will be turbulent times ahead. We urge the commissioner and CE to approach this process with integrity and open communication with staff, students, iwi and the community we serve so they feel they are informed, educated and can be included as a positive resource going forward,” said Simon Dixon, TEU co-branch president at Whitireia.