31 August 2018Hon. Chris HipkinsMinister of EducationParliament BuildingsMolesworth StreetWellingtonTēnā koe e te Minita,We want to thank you for the time you spent with staff at our institutionsand for your clear support of community tertiary education provisionthrough investing in Whitireia at this difficult time.Staff at both WelTec and Whitireia were surprised by the events of the lasttwo weeks as we had not been told the severity of the financialdifficulties of the two institutions. This is also concerning from anemployment relations perspective in terms of good faith provisions as theunion and the Chief Executive of Whitireia and WelTec have been inpre-bargaining discussions.We hope that the severe financial issues faced by Whitireia and themoderate ones faced by WelTec will ensure a commitment by all involved tofind a better funding model and a better way of running our sector. To havequality, public tertiary education that is accessible to all NewZealanders, both the government and our institutional leaders need to putstaff at the heart of all that is happening. We look forward to continuingto work with you to design a better funding and operational model for ourinstitutions and the country as a whole.One operational change needed is to ensure that there is a more transparentapproach to decision-making and operations at our institutions. Staff andstudent voice must be seen as crucial to the long-term vision of Whitireiaand WelTec.We will be submitting formally to the TEC on the proposal to put in place aCommissioner, but we wanted to share a number of key actions we think willhelp to ensure long-term provision thrives in our communities.Time for a long term ‘strategic plan’Education cannot survive and grow if it is treated like a supermarketusing just in time strategies. We need targeted investment for thefuture and pressure needs to be fed back to the Government to changethe broken funding model so we can plan for growth as well as times ofhardship too.As staff we are concerned about the lack of direction that has surroundedthe ‘non-merger’ of WelTec and Whitireia. There does not seem to be acoherent plan for our institutions, nor the sector as a whole. Beforemoving on with reshaping the two institutions, we need to know where we aregoing. As one staff member put it:Develop a "blueprint" for the future success of Whitireia that isresponsive to Industry and community and is respectful of the manaakiof Whitireia. Establish a Board that is inclusive of community, staff,student and iwi representation thus ensuring transparency and betteraccountability.With regard the planning for the ITP sector, we appreciate the input thatstaff have had into the ITP Roadmap 2020 review, however we still fear isthat both locally and nationally the focus is still too weighted towardsrunning ‘a business’.Time to go back to our core missionWe need to refocus on the core mission of the ITP sector and the twoinstitutions we work at. We echo a long-held view that the experiment toturn our institutions into ‘businesses’ has failed. The financial crisesbeing faced by ITPs is evidence of this. As one staff member noted:Look at what brought about this demise in the first place. For example,with Whitireia in Auckland the fact that the massive reductioninternational enrolments was not foreseen or planned for. It didn'ttake a clairvoyant to work out that the sham of international studentsusing study as a way to get a visa would be tightened up eventually.Putting all of the eggs into one basket has proved fatal.So what is the core mission staff want Whitireia and WelTec to focus on?One staff member put it this way:Run the polytechnics as an Educational Institute not a business. Thetwo do not mix. If Polytechnics want to put students first then it hasto be remembered - we educate in the class room, face to face, in smalllabs of 20 seats - we are practical, our tutors want the best forstudents and we should want the best for our academic staffTo illustrate how far we are from that mission as set out by one staffmember noted:The culture of WelTec has changed. Every week academic staff getemailed newsletters of Exec management in photo opportunities andprofiling some new director or executive this or that. Management seemto have forgotten that we are a tertiary institute, not a citycorporate. It is the academic staff here that are the jewel in thecrown of this place, it is us and the students that are at the heart ofeducation.The return to core mission is only possible if we see ourselves in thecontext of a broader system. This means examining what is taught at each ofour tertiary institutions and perhaps focussing on core mission:the recent Postgraduate and Masters programmes seems at odds with beinga Technical Institute and in direct competition with Universities whoare funded differently than we are and I cannot but ask why are we inthis space? We produce very good students for IT, Construction,Engineering, Business and Hospitality programmes that hold their ownagainst their competition in Universities and often do better in thepractical application of their expertise.While we have no sense of the overall strategic plan for Whitireia andWelTec, we have experienced constant and highly disruptive reviews andrestructuring. This has a negative impact on staff morale.The staff morale is low as a result of the never-ending reviews. Whyare we under reviews which don't contribute to the financial wellbeingof the institutions?We need to cultivate a positive and innovative working environmentwhere people can contribute without fear or repercussion. Staff areunder review while at the same time expected to develop course contentsand lesson plans for new degrees.At this time we call on Whitireia and WelTec leaders to minimise thereviews going on in the institution, while we co-design the direction andmanagement styles that will ensure we achieve our collective vision. Wefeel it is important to stabilise provision right now, least we cut toodeeply into the core mission of our institutions with constantrestructuring and reviews.Collaborative and collegial management approaches neededThe managerial approach has led to a yawning gap between senior managementand staff. We have seen the institutional leaders introduce “another layerof expensive Managers which seems unnecessary…” We think that there is aneed to:Reduce Top Management. Let the Head of School have influence over thedelivery of service. … [Have an] open and transparent philosophy andculture. Stop the bullying cultureWe need a new leadership model which is founded on distributed leadershipand collegiality.The importance of staff voiceStaff must have a voice in decision-making. This includes ensuring thatcouncil members include those with the expertise and experience ofteaching, learning, and research. We are pleased to note the moves by yourgovernment to change the Education Act, though note that we need more thanone staff member on the council of WelTec/Whitireia.Part of this approach is to allow staff the time and space to connect totheir communities. In particular we note that marketing approaches at ourinstitutions is not successful and institutions need to get back to directengagement:Talk to the community, and check provision of appropriate courses todeliver skill sets needed for wider society, eg trades people (plumbers, builders, etc.) and specific societal health needs such astargeted skill sets eg (addictions workers) not just the more genericprogrammes such as nurses.The importance of staff and student well-beingThe ongoing restructuring and change has had a negative impact on staff. Wehave seen a rise in casualisation at our institutions to cope withunderfunding and dropping enrolments. There is a need for a strongconversation about the level of casualisation and its impact on studentlearning.We have also seen moves to restrict conference leave and access toprofessional development because of the funding squeeze faced by ourinstitutions. As with cuts to courses and staffing, reducing the learningand growth opportunities for staff creates risks in terms of currency ofstaff knowledge.Added to this, a sustainable future for Whitireia and WelTec must centre ona student-in-context approach:Ensure accessibility to learning and education is equitable andavailable for all students; this includes study facilities andresources; transport, learning support services, library […]This isfundamental, as students have many other responsibilities like workingpart-time, childcare, school and out of school activities, grandparentsand family support, providing (financially) for their families and allthis is on a normal day - add in sickness, poverty and social/personalissues in addition to doing study in own timeNext stepsAs staff committed to life-long learning, quality teaching and research,and accessible tertiary education, we look forward to working with you andthe Commissioner to make sure our sector is once again focused ondelivering for all New Zealanders. We have seen significant change withconstant reviews of our programmes. As such we want clarity about how wecan contribute to the next steps for our Institutions. We seek answers tothe following questions:- How long will a commissioner be in charge of our institutions?- What planning will take place to focus on the future direction of ourinstitutions?- What steps will be taking to avoid an exodus of skilled and qualifiedstaff in the short term?- What support can be provided for our institutions to focus on growth instudent numbers and reputation, through support services and resourcing,while ensuring the institutions are also sustainable in the short, mediumand long term?- How will we as staff be involved in all of this?We thank you for your ongoing commitment to accessible, quality tertiaryeducation for all communities and look forward to your reply.Nāku iti noa, nāDaniel Benson-GuiuOrganiserOn behalf of the co-presidents at WelTec and Whitireia